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Full text of "Seven keys to Baldpate"

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BOSTON 
PUBLIC 
LIBRARY 




SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 



SEVEN KEYS 
TO BALDPATE 

BY 

EARL DERR DIGGERS 



ILLUSTRATED BY 

FRANK SNAPP 




NEW YORK 

GROSSET & DUNLAP 

PUBLISHERS 



Copyright 1913 
The Bobbs-Merrill Company 





• 5i$<>S' 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 

I "Weep No More, My Lady" . 

II Enter a Lovelorn Haberdasher 

III Blondes and Suffragettes 

IV A Professional Hermit Appears 
V The Mayor Casts a Shadow Before 

VI Ghosts of the Summer Crowd 

VII The Mayor Begins a Vigil 

VIII Mr. Max Tells a Tale of Suspicion 

IX Melodrama in the Snow . 

X The Cold Gray Dawn 

XI A Falsehood Under the Palms 

XII Woe in Number Seven 

XIII The Exquisite Mr. Hayden 

XIV The Sign of the Open Window 
XV Table Talk .... 

XVI A Man from the Dark 

XVII The Professor Sums Up . 

XVIII A Red Card .... 

XIX Exeunt Omnes, as Shakespeare Has It 

XX The Admiral's Game 

XXI The Mayor is Welcomed Home 

XXII The Usual Thing . 



PAon 
1 

25 
51 
70 
89 
111 
134 
152 
167 
185 
205 
224 
242 
261 
279 
295 
311 

n^ 

349 
366 
379 
395 



SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 



SEVEN KEYS TO 
BALDPATE 



CHAPTER I 
"weep no more, my lady" 

A YOUNG woman was crying bitterly in the 
1 \ waiting-room of the railway station at 
Upper Asquewan Falls, New York. 

A beautiful young woman? That is exactly 
what Billy Magee wanted to know as, closing the 
waiting-room door behind him, he stood staring 
just inside. Were the features against which that 
frail bit of cambric was agonizingly pressed of a 
pleasing contour? The girl's neatly tailored cor- 
duroy suit and her flippant but charming millinery 
augured well. Should he step gallantly forward 
, and inquire in sympathetic tones as to the cause of 
her woe? Should he carry chivalry even to the 
lengths of Upper Asquewan Falls? 

I 



2 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

No, Mr. Magee decided he would not. The 
train that had just roared away into the dusk 
had not brought him from the region of sky- 
scrapers and derby hats for deeds of knight er- 
rantry up state. Anyhow, the girl's tears were 
none of his business. A railway station was a 
natural place for grief — a field of many partings, 
upon whose floor fell often in torrents the tears 
of those left behind. A friend, mayhap a lover, 
had been whisked off into the night by the relent- 
less five thirty-four local. Why not a lover? Sure- 
ly about such a dainty trim figure as this courtiers 
hovered as moths about a flame. Upon a tender 
intimate sorrow it was not the place of an un- 
known Magee to intrude. He put his hand gently 
upon the latch of the door. 

And yet^ — dim and heartless and cold was the 
interior of that waiting-room. No place, surely, 
for a gentleman to leave a lady sorrowful, par- 
ticularly when the lady was so alluring. Oh, be- 
yond question, she was most alluring. Mr. Magee 
stepped softly to the ticket window and made 
low-voiced inquiry of the man inside. 

"What's she crying about?" he asked. 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY 3 

A thin sallow face, on the forehead of whicH 
a mop of ginger-colored hair lay listlessly, was 
pressed against the bars. 

"Thanks," said the ticket agent. "I get asked 
the same old questions so often, one like yours 
sort of breaks the monotony. Sorry I can't help 
you. She's a woman, and the Lord pnly knows 
why women cry. And sometimes I reckon even 
He must be a little puzzled. Now, my wife — " 

"I think I'll ask her," confided Mr. Magee in 
a hoarse whisper. 

*'0h, I wouldn't," advised the man behind the 
bars. "It's best to let 'em alone. They stop quick- 
er if they ain't noticed." 

'But she's in trouble," argued Billy Magee. 

'And so'll you be, most likely," responded the 
cynic, "if you interfere. No, siree! Take my 
advice. Shoot old Asquewan's rapids in a barrel 
if you want to, but keep away from crying 
women." 

The heedless Billy Magee, however, was al- 
ready moving across the unscrubbed floor with 
chivalrous intention. 

The girl's trim shoulders no longer heaved so 



"] 



4 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

unhappily. Mr. Magee, approaching, thought 
himself again in the college yard at dusk, with the 
great elms sighing overhead, and the fresh young 
voices of the glee club ringing out from the steps 
of a century-old building. What were the words 
they sang so many times ? 

"Weep no more, my lady. 
Oh ! weep no more to-day." 

He regretted that he could not make use of 
them. They had always seemed to him so sad and 
beautiful. But troubadours, he knew, went out of 
fashion long before railway stations came in. So 
his remark to the young woman was not at all me- 
lodious : 

"Can I do anything?" 

A. portion of the handkerchief was removed, 
and an eye which, Mr. Magee noted, was of an 
admirable blue, peeped out at him. To the gaze 
of even a solitary eye, Mr. Magee's aspect was 
decidedly pleasing. Young Williams, who posed at 
the club as a wit, had once said that Billy Magee 
came as near to being a magazine artist's idea of 
the proper hero of a story as any man could, and 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY 5 

af the same time retain the respect and affection 
of his fellows. Mr. Magee thought he read ap- 
proval in the lone eye of blue. When the lady 

spoke, however, he hastily revised his opinion. 
"Yes," she said, "you can do something. You 

can go away — far, far away." 

Mr. Magee stiffened. Thus chivalry fared in 
Upper Asquewan Falls in the year 191 1. 

"I beg your pardon," he remarked. "You 
seemed to be in trouble, and I thought I might 
possibly be of some assistance^" 

The girl removed the entire handkerchief. The 
other eye proved to be the same admirable blue — 
a blue half-way between the shade of her cordu- 
roy suit and that of the jacky's costume in the 
"See the World — Join the Navy" poster that 
served as background to her woe. 

"I don't mean to be rude," she explained more 
gently, "but — I'm crying, you see, and a girl 
simply can't look attractive when she cries." 

"If I had only been regularly introduced to 
you, and all that," responded Mr. Magee, "I could 
make a very flattering reply." And a true one, he 
added to himself. For even in the faint flicker- 



5 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

ing light of the station he found ample reason for 
rejoicing that the bit of cambric was no longer 
agonizingly pressed. As yet he had scarcely 
looked away from her eyes, but he was dimly 
aware that up above wisps of golden hair peeped 
impudently from beneath a saucy black hat. He 
would look at those wisps shortly, he told him- 
self. As soon as he could look away frpm the 
eyes — which was not just yet. 

"My grief," said the girl, "is utterly silly and — 
womanish. I think it would be best to leave me 
alone with it. Thank you for your interest. And 
— would you mind asking the gentleman who is 
pressing his face so feverishly against the bars to 
kindly close his window ?" 

"Certainly," replied Mr. Magee. He turned 
away. As he did so he collided with a rather ex- 
cessive lady. She gave the impression of solidity 
and bulk ; her mouth was hard and knowing. Mr. 
Magee felt that she wanted to vote, and that she 
would say as much from time to time. The lady 
had a glittering eye ; she put it to its time-honored 
use and fixed Mr. Magee with it. 

*T was crying, mamma," the girl explained. 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY 7 
"and this gentleman Inquired if he could be of any 



service." 



Mamma! Mr. Magee wanted to add his tears 
to those of the girl. This frail and lovely damsel 
in distress owning as her maternal parent a heavy 
unnecessary — person ! The older woman also had 
yellow hair, but it was the sort that suggests the 
white enamel pallor of a drug store, with the soda- 
fountain fizzing and the bottles of perfume ranged 
in an odorous row. Mamma! Thus rolled the 
world along. 

"Well, they ain't no use gettin' all worked up 
for nothing," advised the unpleasant parent. Mr. 
Magee was surprised that in her tone there was no 
hostility to him — ^thus belying her looks. "Mebbe 
the gentleman can direct us to a good hotel," she 
added, with a rather stagy smile. 

"I'm a stranger here, too," Mr. Magee replied.' 
"Fll interview the man over there in the cage." 

The gentleman referred to was not cheerful in 
his replies. There was, he said, Baldpate Inn. 

"Oh, yes, Baldpate Inn," repeated Billy Magee 
with interest. 

"Yes, that's a pretty swell place," said the ticket 



'8 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

agent "But it ain't open now. It's a summer re- 
sort. There ain't no place open now but the Com- 
mercial House. And I wouldn't recommend no 
human being there — especially no lady who was 
sad before she ever saw it." 

Mr. Magee explained to the incongruous family 
pair waiting on the bench. 

"There's only one hotel," he said, "and I'm 
told it's not exactly the place for any one whose 
outlook on life is not rosy at the moment. I'm 
sorry." 

"It will do very well," answered the girl, "what- 
ever it is." She smiled at Billy Magee. "My out- 
look on life in Upper Asquewan Falls," she said, 
"grows rosier every minute. We must find a 
cab." 

She began to gather up her traveling-bags, and 
Mr. Magee hastened to assist. The three went 
out on the station platform, apon which lay a thin 
carpet of snowflakes. There the older woman, in 
a harsh rasping voice, found fault with Upper 
Asquewan Falls, — its geography, its public spirit, 
its brand of weather. A dejected cab at the end 
of the platform stood mourning its lonely lot. In 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY 9 

it Mr. Magee placed the large lady and the bags. 
Then, while the driver climbed to his seat, he 
spoke into the invisible ear of the girl. 

*'You haven't told me why you cried," he re- 
minded her. 

She waved her hand toward the wayside village, 
the lamps of which shone sorrowfully through the 
snow. 

"Upper Asquewan Falls," she said, "isn't it 
reason enough?" 

Billy Magee looked ; saw a row of gloomy build- 
ings that seemed to list as the wind blew, a blurred 
sign "Liquors and Cigars," a street that staggered 
away into the dark like a man who had lingered 
too long at the emporium back of the sign. 

"Are you doomed to stay here long?" he asked. 

"Come on, Mary," cried a deep voice from the 
cab. "Get in and shut the door. I'm freezing." 

"It all depends," said the girl. "Thank you for 
being so kind and — good night." 

The door closed with a muffled bang, the cab 
creaked wearily away, and Mr. Magee turned back 
to the dim waiting-room. 

"Well, what was she crying for?" inquired the 



10 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

ticket agent, when Mr. Magee stood again at his 
cell window. 

''She didn't think much of your town," re- 
sponded Magee ; "she intimated that it made her 
heavy of heart." 

"H'm — it ain't much of a place," admitted the 
man, "though it ain't the general rule with visitors 
to burst into tears at sight of it. Yes, Upper As- 
•quewan is slow, and no mistake. It gets on my 
nerves sometimes. Nothing to do but work, work, 
work, and then lay down and wait for to-morrow. 
I used to think maybe some day they'd transfer 
me down to Hooperstown — there's moving pic- 
tures and such goings-on down there. But the 
railroad never notices you — unless you go wrong. 
Yes, sir, sometimes I want to clear out of this 
town myself." 

"A natural wanderlust," sympathized Mr. Ma- 
gee. "You said something just now about Bald- 
pate Inn — " 

"Yes, it's a little more lively in summer, when 
■that's open," answered the agent ; "we get a lot of 
complaints about trunks not coming, from pretty 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY ii 

swell people, too. It sort of cheers things." HI3 
eye roamed with interest over Mr. Magee's New 
York attire. ''But Baldpate Inn is shut up tight 
now. This is nothing but an annex to a grave- 
yard in winter. You wasn't thinking of stopping 
off here, was you?" 

"Well — I want to see a man named ElijaH 
Quimby," Mr. Magee replied. "Do you know 
him?" 

"Of course," said the yearner for pastures new, 
"he's caretaker of the inn. His house is about a 
mile out, on the old Miller Road that leads up 
Baldpate. Come outside and I'll tell you how to 
get there." 

The two men went out into the whirling snow, 
and the agent waved a hand indefinitely up at the 
jnight. 

"If it was clear," he said, "you could see Bald- 
pate Mountain, over yonder, looking down on the 
Falls, sort of keeping an eye on us to make sure 
we don't get reckless. And half-way up you'd see 
Baldpate Inn, black and peaceful and winter-y. 
Just follow this street to the third corner, and 



12 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

turn to your left. Elijah lives in a little house 
back among the trees a mile out — ^there's a gate 
you'll sure hear creaking on a night like this." 

Billy Magee thanked him, and gathering up his 
two bags, walked up "Main Street." A dreary 
forbidding building at the first corner bore the 
sign "Commercial House". Under the white gas- 
light in the office window three bom pessimists 
slouched low in hotel chairs, gazing sourly out at 
the storm. 



(( 



Weep no more, my lady, 
Oh ! weep no more to-day/' 



hummed Mr. Magee cynically under his breath, 
and glanced up at the solitary up-stairs window 
that gleamed yellow in the night. 

At a corner on which stood a little shop that ad- 
vertised "Groceries and Provisions" he paused. 

"Let me see," he pondered. "The lights will be 
turned off, of course. Candles. And a little some- 
thing for the inner man, in case it's the closed sea- 
son for cooks." 

He went inside, where a weary old woman 
served him. . 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY 13 

"What sort of candles ?" she inquired, with the 
air of one who had an infinite variety in stock. 
Mr. Magee remembered that Christmas was near. 

"For a Christmas tree," he explained. He asked 
for two hundred. 

"I've only got forty," the woman said. "What's 
this tree for — the Orphans' Home ?" 

With the added burden of a package containing 
his purchases in the tiny store, Mr. Magee 
emerged and continued his journey through the 
stinging snow. Upper Asquewan Falls on its way 
home for supper flitted past him in the silvery 
darkness. He saw in the lighted windows of 
many of the houses the green wreath of Christ- 
mas cheer. Finally the houses became infrequent, 
and he struck out on an uneven road that wound 
upward. Once he heard a dog's faint bark. Then 
a carriage lurched by him, and a strong voice 
cursed the roughness of the road. Mr. Magee 
half smiled to himself as he strode on. ^ 

"Don Quixote, my boy," he muttered, "I know 
how you felt when you moved on the windmills." 

It was not the whir of windmills but the creak 
of a gate in the storm that brought Mr. Magee at 



14 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

last to a stop. He walked gladly up the path to 
Elijah Quimby's door. 

In answer to Billy Magee's gay knock, a man of 
about sixty years appeared. Evidently he had just; 
finished supper ; at the moment he was engaged in 
lighting his pipe. He admitted Mr. Magee into 
the intimacy of the kitchen, and took a number of 
calm judicious puffs on the pipe before speaking 
to his visitor. In that interval the visitor cheerily 
seized his hand, oblivious of the warm burnt 
match that was in it. The match fell to the floor, 
whereupon the older man cast an anxious glance 
at a gray-haired woman who stood beside the 
kitchen stove. 

"My name's Magee," blithely explained that 
gentleman, dragging in his bags. "And you're 
Elijah Quimby, of course. How are you? Glad 
to see you." His air was that of one who had 
known this Quimby intimately, in many odd cor- 
ners of the world. 

The older man did not reply, but regarded Mr. 
Magee wonderingly through white puffs of smoke. 
His face was kindly, gentle, ineffectual; he 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY 15 

seemed to lack the final "punch" that send men 
over the line to success; this was evident in the 
way his necktie hung, the way his thin hands flut- 



i 



tered. ^ 

*'Yes," he admitted at last "Yes, I'm Quimby." 

Mr. Magee threw back his coat, and sprayed 
with snow Mrs. Quimby's immaculate floor. 

"Fm Magee," he elucidated again, "William 
Hallowell Magee, the man Hal Bentley wrote to 
you about. You got his letter, didn't you?" 

Mr. Quimby removed his pipe and forgot to 
close the aperture as he stared in amazement. 

"Good lord!" he cried, "you don't mean — 
you've really come." 

"What better proof could you ask," said Mr. 
Magee flippantly, "than my presence here?" 

"Why," stammered Mr. Quimby, "we — we 
thought it was all a joke." 

"Hal Bentley has his humorous moments," 
agreed Mr. Magee, "but it isn't his habit to fling 
his jests into Upper Asquewan Falls." 

"And — and you're really going to — " Mr. 
Quimby could get no further. 



i6 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Yes," said Mr. Magee brightly, slipping into a 
rocking-chair. "Yes, I'm going to spend the next 
few months at Baldpate Inn." 

Mrs. Ouimby, who seemed to have settled into 
a stout little mound of a woman through standing 
too long in the warm presence of her stove, came 
forward and inspected Mr. Magee. 

"Of all things," she murmured. 

"It's closed," expostulated Mr. Quimby; "the 
inn is closed, young fellow." 

"I know it's closed," smiled Magee. "That's 
the very reason I'm going to honor it with my 
presence. I'm sorry to take you out on a night 
like this, but I'll have to ask you to lead me up to 
Baldpate. I believe those were Hal Bentley's in- 
structions — in the letter." 

Mr. Ouimby towered above Mr. Magee, a shirt- 
sleeved statue of honest American manhood. He 
scowled. 

"Excuse a plain question, young man," he said, 
"but what are you hiding from?" 

Mrs. Ouimby, in the neighborhood of the stove, 
paused to hear the reply. Billy Magee laughed. 

"I'm not hiding," he said. "Didn't Bentley ex- 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY 17 

plain ? Well, I'll try to, though I'm not sure you'll 
understand. Sit down, Mr. Quimby. You are 
not, I take it, the sort of man to follow closely the 
light and frivolous literature of the day." 

"What's that?'' inquired Mr. Quimby. 

"You don't read," continued Mr. Magee, "the 
sort of novels that are sold by the pound in the de- 
partment stores. Now, if you had a daughter — a 
fluffy daughter inseparable from a hammock in 
the summer — she could help me explain. You see 
— I write those novels. Wild thrilling tales for 
the tired business man's tired wife — shots in the 
night, chases after fortunes, Cupid busy with his 
arrows all over the place! It's good fun, and I 
like to do it. There's money in it." 

"Is there?" asked Mr. Quimby with a show of 
interest. 

"Considerable," replied Mr. Magee. "But now 
and then I get a longing to do something that will 
make the critics sit up — ^the real thing, you know. 
The other day I picked up a newspaper and found 
my latest brain-child advertised as 'the best fall 
novel Magee ever wrote'. It got on my nerves — 
I felt like a literary dressmaker, and I could see 



i8 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

my public laying down my fall novel and sighing 
for my early spring styles in fiction. I remem- 
bered that once upon a time a critic advised me to 
go away for ten years to some quiet spot, and 
think. I decided to do it. Baldpate Inn is the 
quiet spot." 

"You don't mean," gasped Mr. Quimby, "that 
you're going to stay there ten years ?" 

"Bless you, no," said Mr. Magee. "Critics ex- 
aggerate. Two months will do. They say I am a 
cheap melodramatic ranter. They say I don't go 
deep. They say my thinking process is a scream. 
I'm afraid they're right Now, I'm going to go 
up to Baldpate Inn, and think. I'm going to get 
away from melodrama. I'm going to do a novel 
so fine and literary that Henry Cabot Lodge will 
come to me with tears in his eyes and ask me to 
join his bunch of self-made Immortals. I'm go- 
ing to do all this up there at the inn — sitting on the 
mountain and looking down on this little old 
world as Jove looked down from Olympus." 

"I don't know who you mean," objected Mr. 
Quimby. 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY.^ 19 

"He was a god — the god of the fruit-stand 
men," explained Magee. "Picture me, if you can, 
depressed by the overwhelming success of my 
^latest brain-child. Picture me meeting Hal Bent- 
ley in a Forty- fourth Street club and asking him 
for the location of the lonesomest spot on earth. 
Hal thought a minute. 'IVe got it', he said, 'the 
lonesomest spot that's happened to date is a sum- 
mer resort in mid-winter. It makes Crusoe's island 
look like Coney on a warm Sunday afternoon in 
comparison.' The talk flowed on, along with other 
things. Hal told me his father owned Baldpate 
Inn, and that you were an old friend of his who 
would be happy for the entire winter over the 
chance tp serve him. He happened to have a key 
to the place — the key to the big front door, T 
guess, from the weight of it — and he gave it to 
me. He also wrote you to look after me. So 
here I am." 

,' Mr. Quimby ran his fingers through his white 
hair. ^ 

"Here I am," repeated Billy Magee, "fleeing 
from the great glitter known as Broadway to do a 



20 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

little rational thinking in the solitudes. It's get- 
ting late, and I suggest that we start for Baldpate 
Inn at once." 

"This ain't exactly — regular,'* Mr. Quimby pro- 
tested. *'No, it ain't what you might call a fre- 
quent occurrence. I'm glad to do anything I can 
for young Mr. Bentley, but I can't help wondering 
what his father will say. And there's a lot of 
things you haven't took into consideration." 

"There certainly is, young man," remarked 
Mrs. Quimby, bustling forward. "How are you 
going to keep warm in that big barn of a place?" 

"The suites on the second floor," said Mr. Ma- 
gee, "are, I hear, equipped with fireplaces. Mr. 
Quimby will keep me supplied with fuel from the 
forest primeval, for which service he will receive 
twenty dollars a week." 

"And light?" asked Mrs. Quimby. 

"For the present, candles. I have forty in that 
package. Later, perhaps you can find me an oil 
lamp. Oh, everything will be provided for." 

"Well," remarked Mr. Quimby, looking in a 
dazed fashion at his wife, "I reckon I'll have to 
talk it over with ma." 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY 21 

The two retired to the next room, and Mr. Ma- 
gee fixed his eyes on a "God Bless Our Home" 
motto while he awaited their return. Presently 
they reappeared. 

"Was you thinking of eating?" inquired Mrs. 
Quimby sarcastically, "while you stayed up 
there ?" 

"I certainly was," smiled Mr. Magee. "For the 
most part I will prepare my own meals from cans 
and — er — jars — and such pagan sources. But 
now and then you, Mrs. Quimby, are going to 
send me something cooked as no other woman in 
the county can cook it. I can see it in your eyes. 
In my poor way I shall try to repay you." 

He continued to smile into Mrs. Quimby^s 
broad cheerful face. Mr. Magee had the type pf 
smile that moves men to part with ten until Satur- 
day, and women to close their eyes and dream of 
Sir Launcelot. Mrs. Quimby could not long re- 
osist. She smiled back. Whereupon Billy Magee 
sprang to his feet. 

"It's all fixed," he cried. "We'll get on splen- 
didly. And now — for Baldpate Inn." 

'Not just yet," said Mrs. Quimby. "I ain't one 



«i 



22 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

to let anybody go up to Baldpate Inn unfed. I 
'spose we're sort o' responsible for you, while 
you're up here. You just set right down and I'll 
have your supper hot and smoking on the table in 
no time." 

Mr. Magee entered into no dispute on this point, 
and for half an hour he was the pleased recipient 
of advice, philosophy, and food. When he had 
assured Mrs. Quimby that he had eaten enough to 
last him the entire two months he intended spend- 
ing at the inn, Mr. Quimby came in, attired in a 
huge "before the war" ulster, and carrying a 
lighted lantern. 

"So you're going to sit up there and write 
things," he commented. "Well, I reckon you'll 
be left to yourself, all right." 

"I hope so," responded Mr. Magee. "I want to 
be so lonesome I'll sob myself to sleep every night. 
It's the only road to immortality. Good-by, Mrs. 
Quimby. In my fortress on the mountain I shall 
expect an occasional culinary message from you." 
He took her plump hand; this motherly little 
woman seemed the last link binding him to the 
world of reality. 



WEEP NO MORE, MY LADY 22, 

"Good-by," smiled Mrs. Quimby. "Be careful 
of matches." 

\ Mr. Quimby led the way with the lantern, and 
presently they stepped out upon the road. The 
storm had ceased, but it was still very dark. Far 

below, in the valley, twinkled the lights of Upper 

I 

Asquewan Falls. 

"By the way, Quimby," remarked Mr. Magee, 
^'is there a girl in your town who has blue eyes, 
light hair, and the general air of a queen out 
shopping ?" 

"Light hair," repeated Quimby. "There's Sally 
Perry. She teaches in the Methodist Sunday- 
school." \ 

"No," said Mr. Magee. "My description was 
poor, I'm afraid. This one I refer to, when she 
weeps, gives the general effect of mist pn the sea 
at dawn. The Methodists do not monopolize her." 

"I read books, and I read newspapers," said 
|Mr. Quimby, "but a lot of your talk I don't under- 
stand." 

"The critics," replied Billy Magee, "could ex- 
plain. My stuff is only for low-brows. Lead on, 
Mr. Quimby." 



24 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Mr. Quimby stood for a moment In dazed 
silence. Then he turned, and the yellow of his 
lantern fell on the dazzling snow ahead. Together 
the two climbed Baldpate Mountain. 



CHAPTER II 

ENTER A LOVELORN HABERDASHEft 

BALDPATE INN did not stand tiptoe on the 
misty mountain-top. Instead it clung with 
grim determination to the side of Baldpate, about 
half-way up, much as a city man clings to the run- 
ning board of an open street-car. This was the 
comparison Mr. Magee made, and even as he 
made it he knew that atmospheric conditions ren- 
dered it questionable. For an open street-car sug- 
gests summer and the ball park ; Baldpate Inn, as 
it shouldered darkly into Mr. Magee's ken, sug- 
gested winter at its most wintry. 
) About the great black shape fhat was the inn, 
like arms, stretched broad verandas. Mr. Magee 
remarked upon them to his companion. 

"Those porches and balconies and things," he 
said, "will come in handy in cooling the fevered 
brow of genius." 

"There ain't much fever in this locality," the 

25 



'26 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

practical Quimby assured him, "especially not in 
winter." 

Silenced, Mr. Magee followed the lantern of 
Quimby over the snow to the broad steps, and up 
to the great front door. There Magee produced 
from beneath his coat an impressive key. Mr. 
Quimby made as though to assist, but was waved 
aside. 

"This is a ceremony," Mr. Magee told him, 
"some day Sunday newspaper stories will be writ- 
ten about it. Baldpate Inn opening its doors to 
the great American novel !" 

He placed the key in the lock, turned it, and the 
door swung open. The coldest blast of air Mr. 
Magee had even encountered swept out from the 
dark interior. He shuddered, and wrapped his 
coat closer. He seemed to see the white trail from 
Dawson City, the sled dogs straggling on with the 
dwindling provisions, the fat Eskimo guide beg- 
ging for gum-drops by his side. 

"Whew," he cried, "we've discovered another 
Pole !" 

"It's stale air," remarked Quimby. 
You mean the Polar atmosphere," replied Ma- 



<r 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 27 

gee. "Yes, it is pretty stale. Jack London and 
Doctor Cook have worked it to death." 

"I mean/' said Quimby, "this air has been in 
here alone too long. It's as stale as last week's 
newspaper. We couldn't heat it with a million 
fires. We'll have to let in some warm air from 
outside first." 

"Warm air — humph," remarked Mr. Magee. 
"Well, live and learn." 

The two stood together in a great bare room. 
The rugs had been removed, and such furniture as 
remained had huddled together, as if for warmth, 
in the center of the floor. When they stepped for- 
ward, the sound of their shoes on the hard wood 
seemed the boom that should wake the dead. 

"This is the hotel ofKice," explained Mr, 
Quimby. 

.1 

At the left of the door was the clerk's desk; be- 
hind it loomed a great safe, and a series of pigeon- 
holes for the mail of the guests. Opposite the 
front door a wide stairway led to a landing half- 
way up, where the stairs were divorced and went 
to the right and left in search of the floor above. 
Mr. Magee surveyed the stairway critically. 



it^ 



it! 



28 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"A great place/' he remarked, "to show off the 
talents of your dressmaker, eh, Quimby? Can't 
you just see the stunning gowns coming down that 
stair in state, and the young men below here agi- 
tated in their bosoms?" 

'No, I can't," said Mr. Quimby frankly. 

'I can't either, to tell the truth," laughed Billy 
Magee. He turned up his collar. "It's like pic- 
turing a summer girl sitting on an iceberg and 
swinging her open-work hosiery over the edge. I 
don't suppose it's necessary to register. I'll go 
right up and select my apartments." 

It was upon a suite of rooms that bore the num- 
ber seven pn their door that Mr. Magee's choice 
fell. A large parlor with a fireplace that a few 
blazing logs would cheer, a bedroom whose bed 
was destitute of all save mattress and springs, and 
a bathroom, comprised his kingdom. Here, too, all 
the furniture was piled in the center of the rooms. 
After Quimby had opened the windows, he began 
straightening the furniture about. 

Mr. Magee inspected his apartment. The win- 
dows were all of the low French variety, and op- 
ened out upon a broad snow-covered balcony 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 29 

which was in reality the roof of the first floor 
veranda. On this balcony Magee stood a mo- 
ment, watching the trees on Baldpate wave their 
black arms in the wind, and the lights of Upper 
Asquewan Falls wink knowingly up at him. Then 
he came inside, and his investigations brought him 
presently to the tub in the bathroom. 

"Fine," he cried, "a cold plunge in the morning 
before the daily struggle for immortality begins." 

He turned the spigot. Nothing happened. 

"I reckon," drawled Mr. Ouimby from the bed- 
room, "you'll carry your cold plunge up from 
the well back of the inn before you plunge into it. 
The water's turned off. We can't take chances 
with busted pipes." 

"Of course," replied Magee less blithely. His 
ardor was somewhat dampened — a paradox — by 
the failure of the spigot to gush forth a response. 
"There's nothing I'd enjoy more than carrying 
eight pails of water up-stairs every morning to get 
up an appetite for — what ? Oh, well, the Lord will 
provide. H we propose to heat up the great 
American outdoors, Quimby, I think it's time we 
had a fire.'* 



30 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Mr. Quimby went out without comment, and 
left Magee to light his first candle in the dark. 
For a time he occupied himself with lighting a few 
^of the forty, and distributing them about the 
room. Soon Quimby came back with kindling 
and logs, and subsequently a noisy fire roared in 
the grate. Again Quimby retired, and returned 
with a generous armful of bedding, which he 
threw upon the brass bed in the inner room. Then 
he slowly closed and locked the windows, after 
which he came and looked down with good- 
natured contempt at Mr. Magee, who sat in a 

chair before the fire. 

"I wouldn't wander round none," he advised. 

"You might fall down something — or something. 

I been living in these parts, off and on, for sixty 

lyears and more, and nothing like this ever came 

under my observation before. Howsomever, I 

guess it's all right if Mr. Bentley says so. Til 

come up in the morning and see you down to the 

train." 

'*What train?" inquired Mr. Magee. 

"Your train back to New York City," replied 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 31 

Mr. Quimby. "Don't try to start back in the 
night. There ain't no train till morning." 

"Ah, Quimby," laughed Mr. Magee, "you taunt 
me. You think I won't stick it out. But I'll show 
jrou. I tell you, I'm hungry for solitude." 

"That's all right," Mr. Quimby responded, 
"you can't make three square meals a day off soli- 
tude." 

"I'm desperate," said Magee. "Henry Cabot 
Lodge must come to me, I say, with tears in his 
eyes. Ever see the senator that way? No? It 

isn't going to be an easy job. I must put it over. 
I must go deep into the hearts of men, up here, 
and write what I find. No more shots in the night. 
Just the adventure of soul and soul. Do you see ? 
By the way, here's twenty dollars, your first 
week's pay as caretaker of a New Yprk Quixote." 

"What's that?" asked Quimby. 

'^Quixote," explained Mr. Magee, "was a Span- 
ish lad who was a little confused in his mind, and 
went about the country putting up at summer re- 
sorts in mid-winter." 

"I'd expect it of a Spaniard," Quimby said. 
Be careful of that fire. I'll be up in the fnom- 



k. 



32 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

ing." He stowed away the bill Mr. Magee had 
given him. *'l guess nothing will interfere with 
your lonesomeness. Leastways, I hope it won't. 
^ Good night." 

Mr. Magee bade the man good night, and lis- 
tened to the thump of his boots, and the closing of 
the great front door. From his windows he 
watched the caretaker move down the road with- 
out looking back, to disappear at last in the white 
night. 

Throwing off his great coat, Mr. Magee noisily 
attacked the fire. The blaze flared red on his 
strong humorous mouth, in his smiling eyes. 
Next, in the flickering half-light of suite seven, he 
distributed the contents of his traveling-bags 
about On the table he placed a number of new 
magazines and a few books. 

Then Mr. Magee sat dow^n in the big leather 
chair before the fire, and caught his breath. Here 
he was at last. The wild plan he and Hal Bentley 
had cooked up in that Forty- fourth Street club 
had actually come to be. ^'Seclusion/' Magee had 
cried. "Bermuda," Bentley had suggested. "A 
mixture of sea, hotel clerks, and honeymooners !" 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 35 

the seeker for solitude had sneered. "Some win- 
ter place down South," — from Bentley. "And a 
flirtation lurking in every corner !" — from Magee. 
* "A country town where you don't know any one." 
"The easiest place in the world to get acquainted. 
I must be alone, man ! Alone !" "Baldpate Inn," 
Bentley had cried in his idiom. "Why, Billy — 
Baldpate Inn at Christmas — it must be old John 
H. Seclusion himself." 

Yes, here he was. And here was the solitude 
he had come to find. Mr. Magee looked nervously 
about, and the smile died out of his gray eyes. 
For the first time misgivings smote him. Might 
one not have too much of a good thing? A silence 
like that of the tomb had descended. He recalled 
stories of men who went mad from loneliness. 
What place lonelier than this ? The wind howled 
along the balcony. It rattled the windows. Out- 
side his door lay a great black cave — in summer 
gay with men and maids — now like Crusoe's is- 
land before the old man landed. 

"Alone, alone, all, all alone," quoted Mr. Ma- 
gee. "If I can't think here it will be because I'm 
not equipped with the apparatus. I will. I'll show 



34 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

the gloomy pld critics ! I wonder what's doing in 
New York ?" 

New York! Mr. Magee looked at his watch. 
Eight o'clock. The great street was ablaze. The 
crowds were parading from the restaurants to the 
theaters. The electric signs were pasting lurid 
legends on a long suffering sky; the taxis were 
spraying throats with gasoline; the traffic cop at 
Broadway and Forty-second Street was madly 
earning his pay. Mr. Magee got up and walked 
the floor. New York ! 

Probably the telephone in his rooms was jang- 
ling, vainly calling forth to sport with Amaryllis 
in the shade of the rubber trees Billy Magee — 
Billy Magee who sat alone in the silence on Bald- 
pate Mountain. Few knew of his departure. This 
was the night of that stupid attempt at theatricals 
at the Plaza ; stupid in itself but gay, almost giddy, 
since Helen Faulkner was to be there. This was 
the night of the dinner to Carey at the club. This 
was the night — of many diverting things. 

Mr. Magee picked up a magazine. He won- 
dered how they read, in the old days, by candle- 
light. He wondered if they would have found his 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 35 

t&wn stories worth the strain on the eyes. And he 
also wondered if absolute solitude was quite the 
thing necessary to the composition of the novel 
that should forever silence those who sneered af 
his ability. 

Absolute solitude ! Only the crackle of the fivQ^ 
the roar of the wind, and the ticking of his watcK 
bore him company. He strode to the window and 
looked down at the few dim lights that proclaimed 
the existence of Upper Asquewan Falls. Some- 
where, down there, was the Commercial House. 
Somewhere the girl who had wept so bitterly in 
that gloomy little waiting-room. She was only 
three miles away, and the thought cheered Mr. 
Magee. After all, he was not on a desert island. 

And yet — he was alone, intensely, almost pain- 
fully, alone. Alone in a vast moaning house that 
must be his only home until he could go back to 
the gay city with his masterpiece. What a mas- 
terpiece! As though with a surgeon's knife it 
would lay bare the hearts of men. No tricks of 
plot, no — 

Mr. Magee paused. For sharply in the silence 
the bell of his room telephone rang out. 



36 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

He stood for a moment gazing in wonder, his 
heart beating swiftly, his eyes upon the instru- 
ment on the wall. It was a house phone ; he knew 
that it could only be rung from the switchboard, 
in the hall below. "I'm going mad already," he 
remarked, and took down the receiver. 

A blur of talk, an electric muttering, a click, 
and all was still. 

Mr. Magee opened the door and stepped out 
into the shadov/s. He heard a voice below. 
Noiselessly he crept to the landing, and gazed 
down into the office. A young man sat at the tele- 
phone switchboard; Mr. Magee could see in the 
dim light of a solitary candle that he was a person 
pi rather hilarious raiment. The candle stood on 
the top of the safe, and the door of the latter 
swung open. Sinking down on the steps in the 
dark, Mr. Magee waited. 

"Hello," the young man was saying, "how do 
you work this thing, anyhow? I've tried every 
peg but the right one. Hello — hello ! I want long 
distance — Reuton. 2876 West — Mr. Andy Rut- 
ter. Will you get him for me, sister?" 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 37 

Another wait — a long one — ensued. The can- 
dle sputtered. The young man fidgeted in his 
chair. At last he spoke again : 

"Hello! Andy? Is that you, Andy? What's 
the good word? As quiet as the tomb of Napo- 
leon. Shall I close up shop ? Sure. What next ? 
Oh, see here, Andy, Ld die up here. Did you ever 
hit a place like this in winter? I can't — I — oh, 
well, if he says so. Yes. I could do that. But 
no longer. I couldn't stand it long. Tell him that. 
Tell him everything's O. K. Yes. AD right 
Well, good night, Andy." 

He turned away from the switchboard, and as 
he did so Mr. Magee walked calmly down the 
stairs toward him. With a cry the young man 
ran to the safe, threw a package inside, and swung 
shut the door. He turned the knob of the safe 
several times ; then he faced Mr. Magee. The lat- 
ter saw something glitter in his hand. 
\ "Good evening," remarked Mr. Magee pleas- 
antly. 

"What are you doing here?" cried the youth 
wildly. 

"I live here," Mr. Magee assured him. "Won't 



38 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

you come up to my room — it's right at the head 
of the stairs. I have a fire, you know." 

Back into the young man's lean hawk-Hke face 
(crept the assurance that belonged with the gay at- 
tire he wore. He dropped the revolver into his 
i pocket, and smiled a sneering smile. 

"You gave me a turn," he said. "Of course you 
live here. Are any of the other guests about? 
And who won the tennis match to-day ?" 

"You are facetious." Mr. Magee smiled too. 

"So much the better. A lively companion is the 

I 

very sort I should have ordered to-night. Come 

up-stairs." 

The young man looked suspiciously about, his 
thin nose seemingly scenting plots. He nodded, 
and picked up the candle. "All right," he said. 
"But I'll have to ask you to go first. You know 
the way." His right hand sought the pocket into 
which the revolver had fallen. 

"You honor my poor and drafty house," said; 
*Mr. Magee. "This way." 

He mounted the stairs. After him followed the 
youth of flashy habiliments, looking fearfully 
about him as he went. He seemed surprised that 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 39 

tHey came to Magee's room without incident. In- 
side, Mr. Magee drew up an easy chair before the 
fire, and offered his guest a cigar. 

"You must be cold," he said. "Sit here. 'A. 
bad night, stranger' as they remark in stories." 

"You've said it," replied the young man, accept- 
ing the cigar. "Thanks." He walked to the door 
leading into the hall and opened it about a foot. 
"I'm afraid," he explained jocosely, "we'll get to 
talking, and miss the breakfast bell." He dropped 
into the chair, and lighted his cigar at a candle 
end. "Say, you never can tell, can you? Climb- 
ing up old Baldpate I thought to myself, that hotel 
certainly makes the Sahara Desert look like a cozy 
corner. And here you are, as snug and comfort- 
able and at home as if you were in a Harlem flat. 
You never can tell. And what now ? The story 
of my life?" 

"You might relate," Mr. Magee told him, "that 
portion of it that has led you trespassing on a gen- 
tleman seeking seclusion at Baldpate Inn." 

The stranger looked at Mr. Magee. He had an 
eye that not only looked, but weighed, estimated, 
and classified. Mr. Magee met it smilingly. 



40 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Trespassing, eh?" said the young man. "Far 
be it from me to quarrel with a man who smokes 
as good cigars as you do — ^but there's something 
I haven't quite doped out. That is — who's tres- 
passing, me or you ?" 

"My right here," said Mr. Alagee, "is indispu- 
table." 

"It's a big word," rephed the other, "but you 
can tack it to my right here, and tell no lie. We 
can't dispute, so let's drop the matter. With that 
settled, I'm encouraged to pour out the story of 
why you see me here to-night, far from the mad- 
ding crowd. Have you a stray tear? You'll 
need it. It's a sad touching story, concerned with 
haberdashery and a trusting heart, and a fair 
woman — fair, but, oh, how false!" 

"Proceed," laughed Mr. Magee. "I'm an ad- 
rnirer of the vivid imagination. Don't curb yours, 
I beg of you." 

"It's all straight," said the other in a hurt tone. 
"Every word true. My name is Joseph Bland. 
My profession, until love entered my life, was that 
of haberdasher and outfitter. In the city of Reu- 
ton, fifty miles from here, I taught the Beau 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 41 

Brummels of the thoroughfares what was doing in 
London in the necktie line. I sold them coats with 
padded shoulders, and collars high and awe inspir- 
ing. I was happy, twisting a piece of silk over my 
hand to show them how it would look on their 
heaving bosoms. And then — she came.'* 

Mr. Bland puffed on his cigar. 

"Yes," he said, "Arabella sparkled on the hori- 
zon of my life. When I have been here in the quiet 
for about two centuries, maybe I can do justice to 
her beauty. I won't attempt to describe her now. 
I loved her — madly. She said I made a hit with 
her. I spent on her the profits of my haberdash- 
ery. I whispered — marriage. She didn't scream. 
I had my wedding necktie picked out from the 
samples of a drummer from Troy." He paused 
and looked at Mr. Magee. *^Have you ever stood, 
poised, on that brink?" he asked. 

"Never," replied Magee. "But go on. Your 
story attracts me, strangely." I 

"From here on — the tear I spoke of, please. 
There flashed on the scene a man she had known 
and loved in Jersey City. I said flashed. He did 
— Just that. A swell dresser — say, he had John^ 



42 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE w 

Drew beat by two mauve neckties and a purple 
frock coat. I had a haberdashery back of me. 
No use. He put-dressed me. I saw that Arabel- 
la's love for me was waning. With his chamois- 
gloved hands that new guy fanned the ancient 
flame." 

He paused. Emotion — or the smoke of the 
cigar — choked him. 

''Let's make the short story shorter," he said. 
"She threw me down. In my haberdashery I 
thought it over. I was blue, bitter. I resolved 
on a dreadful step. In the night I wrote her a 
letter, and carried it down to the box and posted 
it. Life without Arabella, said the letter, was 
Shakespeare with Hamlet left out. It hinted at 
the river, carbolic acid, revolvers. Yes, I posted 
it. And then — " 

"And then," urged Mr. Magee. 

Mr. Bland felt tenderly of the horseshoe pin in 
his purple tie. 

"This is just between us," he said. "At that 
point the trouble began. It came from my being 
naturally a very brave man. I could have died — 
easy. The brave thing was to live. To go on, day 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 4;^ 

after day, devoid of Arabella — say, that took 
courage. I wanted to try it. I'm a courageous 
man, as I say." 

"You seem so," Mr. Magee agreed. 

"Lion-hearted," assented Mr. Bland. "I deter- 
mined to show my nerve, and live. But there was 
my letter to Arabella. I feared she wouldn't ap- 
preciate my bravery — women are dull sometimes. 
It came to me maybe she would be hurt if I didn't 
Iceep my word, and die. So I had to — disappear. 
I had a friend mixed up in affairs at Baldpate. 
No, I can't give his name. I told him my story. 
He was impressed by my spirit, as you have been. 
He gave me a key he had — the key of the door 
opening from the east veranda into the dining- 
room. So I came up here. I came here to be 
alone, to forgive and forget, to be forgot. And 
maybe to plan a new haberdashery in distant 
parts." 

"Was it your wedding necktie," asked Mr. Ma- 
gee, "that you threw into the safe when you saw 
me coming?" 

"No," replied Mr. Bland, sighing deeply. "A 
package of letters, written to me by Arabella at 



^44 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

various times. I want to forget 'em. If I kept 
them on hand, I might look at them from time to 
time. My great courage might give way — you 
'might find my body on the stairs. That's why I 
hid them." 

Mr. Magee laughed, and stretched forth his 
hand. 

"Believe me,'' he said, "your touching confi- 
dence in me will not be betrayed. I congratulate 
you on your narrative power. You want my 
story. Why am I here? I am not sure that it is 
worthy to follow yours. But it has its good 
points — as I have thought it out." 

He went over to the table, and picked up a pop- 
ular novel upon which his gaze had rested while 
the haberdasher spun his fabric of love and gloom. 
On the cover was a picture of a very dashing 
maiden. 

"Do you see that girl?" he asked. "She is 
ibeautif ul, is she not ? Even Arabella, in her most 
splendid moments, could get a few points from 
her, I fancy. Perhaps you are not familiar with 
the important part such a picture plays in the suc- 
cess of a novel to-day. The truth is, however, 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 45 

that the noble art of fiction writing has come to 
lean more and more heavily on its illustrators. 
The mere words that go with the pictures grow 
less important every day. There are dozens ofj 
distinguished novelists in the country at this mo- 
ment who might be haberdashers if it weren't for 
the long, lean, haughty ladies who are scattered 
tastefully through their works.'' 

Mr. Bland stirred uneasily. 

"I can see you are at a loss to know what my 
search for seclusion and privacy has to do with 
all this," continued Mr. Magee. *T am an artist. 
For years I have drawn these lovely ladies who 
make fiction salable to the masses. Many a nov- 
elist owes his motor-car and his country house to 
my brush. Two months ago, I determined to give 
up illustration forever, and devote my time to 
painting. I turned my back on the novelists. Can 
you imagine what happened ?" 

"My imagination's a little tired," apologized 
Mr. Bland. 

"Never mind. I'll tell you. The leading au- 
thors whose work I had so long illustrated saw 
ruin staring them in the face. They came to me. 



45 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

on their knees, figuratively. They begged. They 
pleaded. They hid in the vestibule of my flat. I 
should say, my studio. They even came up in my 
dumb-waiter, having bribed the janitor. They 
vi^ouldn't take no for an answer. In order to es- 
cape them and their really pitiful pleadings, I had 
to flee. I happened to have a friend involved in 
the management of Baldpate Inn. I am not at 
liberty to give his name. He gave me a key. So 
here I am. I rely on you to keep my secret. If 
you perceive a novelist in the distance, lose no 
time in warning me." 

Mr. Magee paused, chuckling inwardly. He 
stood looking down at the lovelorn haberdasher. 
The latter got to his feet, and solemnly took Ma- 
gee's hand. 

"I — I — oh, well, you've got me beat a mile, old 
man,'* he said. 

"You don't mean to say — " began the hurt Ma- 
gee. 

"Oh, that's all right," Mr. Bland assured him. 
"I believe every word of it. It's all as real as the 
haberdashery to me. I'll keep my eye peeled for 
novelists. What gets me is, when you boil our 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 4/ 

two fly-by-night stories down, I've come here to 
be alone. You want to be alone. We can't be 
alone here together. One of us must clear out." 

''Nonsense," answered Billy Magee. "I'll be 
glad to have you here. Stay as long as you like." 

The haberdasher looked Mr. Magee fully in the 
eye, and the latter was startled by the hostility he 
saw in the other's face. 

"The point is," said Mr. Bland, "I don't want 
you here. Why ? Maybe because you recall beau- 
tiful dames — on book covers — and in that way, 
Arabella. Maybe — ^but what's the use? I put it 
simply. I got to be alone — alone on Baldpate 
Mountain. I won't put you out to-night — " 

"See here, my friend," cried Mr. Magee, "your 
grief has turned your head. You won't put me 
out to-night, or to-morrow. I'm here to stay. 
You're welcome to do the same, if you like. But 
you stay — ^with me. I know you are a man of 
courage — but it would take at least ten men of 
courage to put me out of Baldpate Inn." 

They stood eying each other for a moment 
Bland's thin lips twisted into a sneer. "We'll 
see," he said. "We'll settle all that in the mom- 



48 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

ing." His tone took on a more friendly aspect. 
"I'm going to pick out a downy couch in one of 
these rooms," he said, "and lay me down to sleep. 
•Say, I could greet a blanket like a long-lost 
friend." 

Mr. Magee proffered some of the covers that 
Quimby had given him, and accompanied Mr. 
Bland to suite ten, across the hall. He explained 
the matter of "stale air", and assisted in the open- 
ing of windows. The conversation was mostly 
facetious, and Mr. Bland's last remark concerned 
the fickleness of woman. With a brisk good night, 
Mr. Magee returned to number seven. 

But he made no move toward the chilly brass 
bed in the inner room. Instead he sat a long time 
by the fire. He reflected on the events of his first 
few hours in that supposedly uninhabited solitude 
where he was to be alone with his thoughts. He 
pondered the way and manner of the flippant 
young man who posed as a lovelorn haber- 
dasher, and under whose flippancy there was cer- 
tainly an air of hostility. Who was Andy Rutter, 
down in Reuton ? \Vhat did the young man mean 
when he asked if he should "close up shop"? 



A LOVELORN HABERDASHER 49 

Who was the "he'* from whom came the orders ? 
and most important of all, what was in the pack- 
age now resting in the great safe? 

Mr. Magee smiled. Was this the stuff of which 
solitude was made ? He recalled the ludicrous lit- 
erary tale he had invented to balance the moving 
fiction of Arabella, and his smile grew broader. 
His imagination, at least, was in a healthy state. 
He looked at his watch. A quarter of twelve. 
Probably they were having supper at the Plaza 
now, and Helen Faulkner was listening to the 
banalities of young Williams. He settled in his 
seat to think of Miss Faulkner. He thought of 
her for ten seconds ; then stepped to the window. 

The moon had risen, and the snowy roofs of 
Upper Asquewan Falls sparkled in the lime-light 
of the heavens. Under one of those roofs was the 
girl of the station — ^weeping no more, he hoped. 
Certainly she had eyes that held even the least sus- 
ceptible — to which class Mr. Magee prided him- 
self he belonged. He wished he might see her 
again; might talk to her without interruption 
from that impossible "mamma." 

Mr. Magee turned back into the room. His 



50 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

fire was but red glowing ashes. He threw off his 
dressing-gown, and began to unlace his shoes. 

"There has been too much crude melodrama in 
my novels," he reflected. "It's so easy to write. 
But I'm going to get away from all that up here. 
I'm going — " 

Mr. Magee paused, with one shoe poised in his 
hand. For from below came the sharp crack of a 
pistol, followed by the crash of breaking glass. 



CHAPTER III 

BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES 

MR. MAGEE slipped into his dressing- 
gown, seized a candle, and like the bo}r 
in the nursery rhyme with one shoe off and pne 
shoe on, ran into the hall. All was silent and dark 
below. He descended to the landing, and stood 
there, holding the candle high above his head. It 
threw a dim light as far as the bottom of the 
stairs, but quickly lost the battle with the shadows 
that lay beyond. 

"Hello," the voice of Bland, the haberdasher, 
came put of the blackness. "The Goddess of Lib- 
erty, as I live ! What's your next imitation ?*' 

"There seems to be something doing,'' said Mr. 
Magee. 

Mr. Bland came into the light, partially dis- 
robed, his revolver in his hand. 

"Somebody trying to get in by the front door/' 

51 



'52 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

he explained. "I shot at him to scare him away. 
Probably one of your novelists." 

*'0r Arabella," remarked Mr. Magee, coming 
down. 

"No," answered Bland. *T distinctly saw a 
derby hat." 

With Mr. Magee descended the yellow candle- 
light, and brushing aside the shadows of the hotel 
office, it revealed a mattress lying on the floor 
close to the clerk's desk, behind which stood the 
safe. On the mattress was the bedding Magee 
had presented to the haberdasher, hastily thrown 
back by the lovelorn one on rising. 

"You prefer to sleep down here/' Mr. Magee 
commented. 

"Near the letters of Arabella — yes," replied 
Bland. His keen eyes met Magee's. There was 
a challenge in them. 

Mr. Magee turned, and the yellow light of the 
candle flickered wanly over the great front door. 
Even as he looked at it, the door was pushed open, 
and a queer figure of a man stood framed against 
a background of glittering snow. Mr. Bland's 
arm flew up. 



BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES 5I 

"Don't shoot," cried Magee. 

"No, please don't," urged the man in the door- 
way. A beard, a pair of round owHsh spectacles, 
and two ridiculous ear-muffs, left only a sugges- 
tion of face here and there. He closed the door 
and stepped into the room. "I have every right 
here, I assure you, even though my arrival is 
somewhat unconventional. See — I have the key.^* 
He held up a large brass key that was the coun- 
terpart of the one Hal Bentley had bestowed upon 
Mr. Magee in that club on far-off Forty-fourth 
Street. 

'Keys to burn," muttered Mr. Bland sourly. 
1 bear no ill will with regard to the shooting," 
went on the newcomer. He took off his derby hat 
and ruefully regarded a hole through the crown. 
His bald head seemed singularly frank and naked 
above a face of so many disguises. *Tt is only nat- 
ural that men alone on a mountain should defend 
themselves from invaders at two in the morning. 
My escape was narrow, but there is no ill will." 

He blinked about him, his breath a white cloud 
in the cold room. 

"Life, young gentlemen," he remarked, setting 



«i 



<C] 



54 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

down his bag and leaning a green umbrella against 
it, "has its surprises even at sixty-two. Last night 
I was ensconced by my own library fire, preparing 
a paper on the Pagan Renaissance. To-night I 
am on Baldpate Mountain, with a perforation in 
my hat." 

Mr. Bland shivered. "I'm going back to bed," 
he said in disgust. 

"First," went on the gentleman with the per- 
forated derby, "permit me to introduce myself. I 
am Professor Thaddeus Bolton, and I hold the 
Chair of Comparative Literature in a big eastern 
university." 

Mr. Magee took the mlttened hand of the pro- 
fessor. 

"Glad to see you, I'm sure," he said. "My 
name is Magee. This Is Mr. Bland — he is Impet- 
uous but estimable. I trust you will forgive his 
first salute. What's a bullet among gentlemen? 
It seems to me that as explanations may be 
lengthy and this room is very cold, we would do 
well to go up to my room, where there is a fire." 

"Delighted," cried the old man. "A fire. I 



BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES 55 
long to see one. Let us go to your room, by all 



means." 



Mr. Bland sulkily stalked to his mattress and 
secured a gaily colored bed quilt, which he wound 
about his thin form. 

"This is positively the last experience meeting 
I attend to-night," he growled. 

They ascended to number seven. Mr. Magee 
piled fresh logs on the fire; Mr. Bland saw to it 
that the door was not tightly closed. The pro- 
fessor removed, along with other impedimenta, 
his ear tabs, which were connected by a rubber 
cord. He waved them like frisky detached ears 
before him. 

"An old man's weakness," he remarked. "Fool- 
ish, they may seem to you. But I assure you I 
found them useful companions in climbing Bald- 
pate Mountain at this hour." 

He sat down in the largest chair suite seven 
owned, and from its depths smiled benignly at the 
two young men. 

"But I am not here to apologize for my apparel, 
am I? Hardly. You are saying to yourselves 



56 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

'Why is he here ?' Yes, that is the question that 
disturbs you. What has brought this domesti- 
cated college professor scampering from the Pa- 
gan Renaissance to Baldpate Inn ? For answer, I 
must ask you to go back with me a week's time, 
and gaze at a picture from the rather dreary aca- 
demic kaleidoscope that is my life. 

"I am seated back of a desk on a platform in a 
bare yellow room. In front of me, tier on tier, 
sit a hundred young men in various attitudes pf 
inattention. I am trying to tell them something 
of the ideal poetry that marked the rebirth of the 
Saxon genius. They are bored. I — well, gentle- 
men, in confidence, even the mind of a college pro- 
fessor has been known to wander at times from 
the subject in hand. And then — I begin to read a 
poem — a poem descriptive of a woman dead six 
hundred years and more. Ah, gentlemen — " 

He sat erect on the edge of his great chair. 
Back of the thick lenses of his spectacles he had 
eyes that still could flash. 

"This is not an era of romance," he said. "Our 
people grub in the dirt for the dollar. Their vis- 
ions perish. Their souls grow stale. Yet, now 



BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES 57 

and then, at most inopportune times, comes the 
flash that reveals to us the glories that might be. 
A gentleman of my acquaintance caught a glimpse 
of perfect happiness while he was in the midst of 
an effort to corner the pickle market. Another 
evolved the scheme of a perfect ode to the essen- 
tial purity of woman in — a Broadway restaurant. 
So, like lightning across the blackest sky, our 
poetic moments come." 

Mr. Bland wrapped his gay quilt more securely 
about him. Mr. Magee smiled encouragement on 
the new^est raconteur. 

*T shall be brief," continued Professor Bolton. 
"Heaven knows that pedagogic room was no place 
for visions, nor were those athletic young men fit 
companions for a soul gone giddy. Yet — I lost 
my head. As I read on there returned to my heart 
a glow I had not known in forty years. The bard 
spoke of her hair : 



S( t 



Her yellow lockes, crisped like golden wyre. 
About her shoulders weren loosely shed' 

and I saw, as in a dream— ahem, I can trust you, 
gentlemen— a girl I supposed I had forever forgot 



58 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

in the mold and dust of my later years. I will not 
go further into the matter. My wife's hair is 
black. 

, "And reading on, but losing the thread of the 
poet's eulogy in the golden fabric of my resur- 
rected dream, it came to me to compare that maid 
I knew in the long ago with the women I know 
to-day. Ah, gentlemen ! Lips, made but for smil- 
ing, fling weighty arguments on the unoffending 
atmosphere. Eyes, made to light with that light 
that never was by land or sea, blaze instead with 
what they call the injustice of woman's servitude. 
White hands, made to find their way to the hands 
of some young man in the moonlight, carry ban- 
ners in the dusty streets. It seemed I saw the blue 
eyes of that girl of long ago turned, sad, rebuking, 
on her sisters of to-day. As I finished reading, 
my heart was awhirl. I said to the young men 
before me : 

" There was a woman, gentlemen — a woman 
worth a million suffragettes.' 

"TXiey applauded. The fire in me died down. 
Soon I was my old meek, academic self. The 
vision had left no trace. I dismissed my class and 



• BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES 59 

went home. I found that my wife — she of the 
black hair — had left my slippers by the library 
fire. I put them on, and plunged into a pamphlet 
lately published by a distinguished member of a 
German university faculty. I thought the inci- 
dent closed forever." 

He gazed sorrowfully at the two young men. 

"But, gentlemen, I had not counted on that vi- 
per that we nourish in our bosom — the American 
newspaper. At present I will not take time to de- 
nounce the press. I am preparing an article on the 
subject for a respectable wxekly of select circula- 
tion. Suffice it to record what happened. The 
next day an evening paper appeared with a huge 
picture of me on its front page, and the hideous 
statement that this was the Professor Bolton who 
had said that 'One Peroxide Blonde Is Worth a 
Million Suffragettes'. ' 

"Yes, that was the dreadful version of my re- 
mark that was spread broadcast. Up to the time 
that story appeared, I had no idea as to what sort 
of creature the peroxide blonde might be. I pro- 
tested, of course. I might as well have tried to 
dam a tidal wave with a table fork. The wrath 



6o SEVEN KEYS TO J^ALDPATE 

of the world swept down upon me. I was deluged 
with telegrams, editorials, letters, denouncing me. 
Firm-faced females lay in wait for me and waved 
umbrellas in my eyes. Even my wife turned from 
me, saying that while she did not ask me to hold 
her views on the question of suffrage, she thought 
I m.ight at least refrain from publicly commend- 
ing a type of woman found chiefly in musical 
comedy choruses. I received a note from the 
president of the university, asking me to be more 
circumspect in my remarks. Me — Thadeus Bol- 
ton — ^the most conservative man on earth by in- 
stinct ! 

"And still the denunciations of me poured in; 
still women's clubs held meetings resolving against 
me; still a steady stream of reporters flowed 
through my life, urging me to state my views fur- 
ther, to name the ten greatest blondes in history, 
to — ^heaven knows what. Yesterday I resolved I 
could stand it no longer. I determined to go away 
until the whole thing was forgotten. ^But', they 
said to me, 'there is no place, on land or sea, where 
the reporters will not find you'. I talked the mat- 
ter over with my old friend, John Bentley, owner 



BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES 6r 

of Baldpate Inn, and he In his kindness gave me 
the key to this hostelry." 

The old man paused and passed a silk handker- 
chief over his bald head. 

**That, sirs," he said, "is my story. That is 
why you see me on Baldpate Mountain this chill 
December morning. That Is why loneliness can 
have no terrors, exile no sorrows, for me. That is 
why I bravely faced your revolver-shots. Again 
let me repeat, I bear no malice on that score. You 
have ruined a new derby hat, and the honorarium 
of professor even at a leading university is not 
such as to permit of many purchases In that line. 
But I forgive you freely. Even at the cannon's 
mouth I would have fled from reputation, to para- 
phrase the poet." 

Wisely Professor Bolton blinked about him. 
Mr. Bland was half asleep In his chair, but Mr. 
Magee was quick with sympathy. 

"Professor," he said, "you are a much suffer- 
ing man. I feel for you. Here, I am sure, you 
are safe from reporters, and the yellow journals 
will soon forget you In their discovery of the next 
distorted wonder. Briefly, Mr. Bland and myself 



'62 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

will outline the tangle of events that brought us 
to the inn — " 

I ''Briefly is right/' broke in Bland- "And then 
it's me for that mountainous mattress of mine. I 
can rattle my story off in short order, and give 
you the fine points to-morrow. Up to a short time 
ago-" 

But Billy Magee interrupted. An idea, mag- 
nificent, delicious, mirthful, had come to him. 
Why not? He chuckled inwardly, but his face 
was most serious. 

"I should like to tell my story first, if you 
please," he said. 

The haberdasher grunted. The professor nod- 
ded. Mr. Magee looked Bland squarely in the 
eye, strangled the laugh inside him, and began : 

"Up to a short time ago I was a haberdasher in 
the city of Reuton. My name, let me state, is 
Magee — William Magee. I fitted the gay shoul- 
der-blades of Reuton with clothing from the back 
pages of the magazines, and as for neckties — " 

Mr. Bland's sly eyes had opened wide. He rose 
to a majestic height — majestic considering the 
bed quilt. 



BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES B3 

"See here — " he began. 

"Please don't interrupt," requested Mr. Magee 
sweetly. "I was, as I have said, a happy care- 
free haberdasher. And then — she entered my life. 
Arabella was her name. Ah, Professor, your 
lady pf the yellow locks, crisped liken golden wire 
— even she must never in my presence be com- 
pared with Arabella. She — she had — a — face — ^ 
Noah Webster couldn't have found words to de* 
scribe it And her heart was true to yours truly — > 
at least I thought that it was.'* 

Mr. Magee rattled on. The haberdasher, his 
calling and his tragedy snatched from him by the 
humorous Magee, retired with sullen face into 
his bed quilt. Carefully Mr. Magee led up to the 
coming of the man from Jersey City; in detail he 
laid bare the duel of haberdashery fought in the 
name of the fair Arabella. As he proceeded, his 
enthusiasm grew. He added fine bits that had es- 
caped Mr. Bland. He painted with free hand the 
picture of tragedy's dark hour; the note hinting 
at suicide he gave in full. Then he told of how 
his courage grew again, of how he put the cow- 
ardice of death behind him, resolved to dare all — < 



^4 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

and live. He finished at last, his voice husky with 
emotion. Out of the corner of his eye he glanced 
triumphantly at Bland. That gentleman was gaz- 
,^ng thoughtfully at the blazing logs. 

*'You did quite right," commented Professor 
Eolton, "in making up your mind to live. I con- 
gratulate you on your common sense. And per- 
haps, as the years go by, you will realize that had 
you married your Arabella, you would not have 
foimd life all honey and roses. She was fickle, 
unworthy of you. Soon you will forget. Youth 
— ah, youth throws off its sorrow like a cloak. A 
figure not original with me. And now — the gen- 
tleman in the — er — the bed quilt. Has he, too, a 
story?" 

*'Yes," laughed Mr. Magee, ''let's hear now 
from the gentleman in the bed quilt. Has he, too, 
a story? And if so, what is it?" 

He smiled delightedly into the eyes of Bland. 
What would the ex-haberdasher do, shorn of his 
fictional explanation ? Would he rise in his wrath 
and denounce the man who had stolen his Ara- 
bella? Mr. Bland smiled back. He stood up. 



BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES '65 

And a contingency that had not entered Mr. Ma- 
gee's mind came to be. 

Mr. Bland walked calmly to the table, and 
picked up a popular novel that lay thereon. On 
its cover was the picture of a very beautiful 
maiden. 

"See that dame?" he inquired of the professor. 
"Sort pf makes a man sit up and take notice, 
doesn't she? Even the frost-bitten haberdasher 
here has got to admit that in some ways she has 
this Arabella person looking like a faded chromo 
in your grandmother's parlor on a rainy after- 
noon. Ever get any notion, Professor, the way a 
picture like that boosts a novel in the busy marts 
of trade? No? Well—" 

Mr. Bland continued. Mr. Magee leaned baclc, 
overjoyed, in his chair. Here was a man not to 
be annoyed by the mere filching of his story. 
Here was a man with a sense of humor — an op- 
ponent worthy his foe's best efforts. Im his role 
of a haberdasher overcome with woe, Mr. Magee 
listened. 

"I used to paint dames like that," Bland was 



66 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

saying to the dazed professor. He explained how 
his pictures had enabled many a novelist to "eat 
up the highway in a buzz-wagon." As he ap- 
proached the time when the novelists besieged 
him, he gave full play to his imagination. One, 
he said, sought out his apartments in an aeroplane. 

"Say, Professor," he finished, "we're in the 
same boat. Both hiding from writers. A fellow 
that's spent his life selling neckties — well, he can't 
exactly appreciate our situation. There's what 
you might call a bond between you and me. D'ye 
know, I felt drawn to you, just after I fired that 
first shot. That's why I didn't blaze away again. 
We're going to be great friends — I can read it in 
the stars." 

He took the older man's hand feelingly, shook 
it, and walked away, casting a covert glance of 
triumph at Mr. Ma gee. 

The face of the holder of the Crandall Chair 
of Comparative Literature was a study. He 
looked first at one young man, then at the other. 
Again he applied the handkerchief to his shining 
head. 

"All this is very odd," he said thoughtfully. 



BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES (^J 

*'A man of sixty-two — particularly one who has 
long lived in the uninspired circle surrounding a 
university — has not the quick wit of youth. I'm 
afraid I don't — -but no matter. It's very odd, 
though." 

He permitted Mr. Magee to escort him into the 
hall, and to direct his search for a bed that should 
.serve him through the scant remainder of the 
night. Overcoats and rugs were pressed into serv- 
ice as cover. Mr. Bland blithely assisted. 

"If I see any newspaper reporters," he assured 
the professor on parting, "I'll damage more than 
their derbies." 

"Thank you," replied the old man heartily. 
"You are very kind. To-morrow we shall become 
better acquainted. Good night." 

The two young men came out and stood in the 
hallway. Mr. Magee spoke in a low tone. 

"Forgive me," he said, "for steaHng your Ara- 
bella." 

"Take her and welcome," said Bland. "She 
was beginning to bore me, anyhow. And I'm not 
in your class as an actor." He came close to Ma- 
gee. In the dim light that streamed out from 



6S SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

number seven the latter saw the look on his face, 

and knew that, underneath all, this was a very; 

much worried young man. 

*'For God's sake," cried Bland, "tell me whoi 

I 
you are and what you're doing here. In three 

words — tell me." 

"If I did," Mr. Magee replied, "you wouldn't 
believe me. Let such minor matters as the truth 
wait over till to-morrow." 

"Well, anyhow," Bland said, his foot on the top 
step, "we are sure of one thing — we don't trust 
each other. I've got one parting word for you. 
Don't try to come down-stairs to-night. I've got 
a gun, and I ain't afraid to shoot." 

He paused. A look of fright passed over his 
face. For on the floor above they both heard soft 
footsteps — then a faint click, as though a door 
had been gently closed. 

"This inn," whispered Bland, "has more keys 
than a literary club in a prohibition town. And 
every one's in use, I guess. Remember. Don't 
try to come down-stairs. IVe warned you. Off 
Arabella's cast-off Romeo may be found with a 
bullet in him yet.'*' 



BLONDES AND SUFFRAGETTES 69 

"I shan't forget what you say," answered Mr, 
Magee. "Shall we look about up-stairs?" 

Bland shook his head. 

"No," he said. "Go in and 2;o to bed. It's the 
down-stairs that — that concerns me. Good night." 

He went swiftly down the steps, leaving Mr. 
Magee staring wonderingly after him. Like a 
wraith he merged with the shadows below. Ma- 
gee turned slowly, and entered number seven. A 
fantastic film of frost was on the windows ; the in- 
ner room was drear and chill. Partially undress- 
ing, he lay down on the brass bed and pulled the 
covers over him. 

The events of the night danced in giddy array 
before him as he closed his eyes. With every 
groan Baldpate Inn uttered in the wind he started 
up, keen for a new adventure. At length his mind 
seemed to stand still, and there remained of all 
that amazing evening's pictures but one — that of 
a girl in a blue corduroy suit who wept — wept 
pnly that her smile might be the more dazzling 
when it flashed behind the tears. "With yellow 
locks, crisped like golden wire," murmured Mr. 
Magee. And so he fell asleep. 



CHAPTER IV 

A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT APPEARS 

EVERY morning at eight, when slumber's 
chains had bound Mr. Magee in his New 
.York apartments, he was awakened by a pompous 
valet named Geoffrey whom he shared with the 
other young men in the building. It was Geof- 
frey's custom to enter, raise the curtains, and 
speak of the weather in a voice vibrant with feel- 
ing, as of something he had prepared himself and 
was anxious to have Mr. Magee try. So, when 
a rattling noise came to his ear on his first morn- 
ing at Baldpate Inn, Mr. Magee breathed sleepily 
ifrom the covers: "Good morning, Geoffrey." 

But no cheery voice replied in terms of sun, 
wind, or rain. Surprised, Mr. Magee sat up in 
bed. About him, the maple-wood furniture of 
suite seven stood shivering in the chill of a De- 
cember morning. Through the door at his left he 

70 



'A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT 71 

caught sight of a white tub into which, he recalled 
sadly, not even a Geoffrey could coax a glittering 
drop. Yes — he was at Baldpate Inn. He remem- 
bered — the climb with the dazed Quimby up the 
snowy road, the plaint of the lovelorn haberdash- 
er, the vagaries of the professor with a penchant 
for blondes, the mysterious click of the door-latch 
on the floor above. And last of all — strange that 
it should have been last — a girl in blue corduroy 
somewhat darker than her eyes, who wept amid 
the station's gloom. 

**I wonder," reflected Mr. Magee, staring at the 
very brassy bars at the foot of his bed, "what new 
variations on seclusion the day will bring forth ?'* 

Again came the rattling noise that had awak- 
ened him. He looked toward the nearest window, 
and through an unfrosted corner of the pane he 
saw the eyes of the newest variation staring at 
him in wonder. They were dark eyes, and kindly ; 
they spoke a desire to enter. 

Rising from his warm retreat, Mr. Magee took 
his shivering way across the uncarpeted floor and 
unfastened the window's catch. From the blus- 
tering balcony a plump little man stepped inside. 



^2 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

He had a market basket on his arm. His face was 
a stranger to razors; his hair to shears. He re- 
minded Mr. Magee of the celebrated doctor who 
came every year to the small town of his boyhood, 
there to sell a wonderful healing herb to the 
crowds on the street corner. 

Magee dived hastily back under the covers. 
'Well ?" he questioned. 

"So you're the fellow," remarked the little man 
in awe. He placed the basket on the floor ; it ap- 
peared to be filled with bromidic groceries, such as 
the most subdued householder carries home. 
Which fellow?" asked Mr. Magee. 
The fellow Elijah Quimby told me about," ex- 
plained he of the long brown locks. "The fellow 
that's come up to Baldpate Inn to be alone with 
his thoughts." 

"You're one of the villagers, I take it," guessed 
Mr. Magee. 

"You're dead wrong. I'm no villager. My in- 
stincts are all in the other direction — away from 
the crowd. I live up near the top of Baldpate, in 
a little shack I built myself. My name's Peters — 
Jake Peters — in the winter. But in the summer. 



<<■' 



«»■ 



A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT y^ 

when the inn's open, and the red and white awn- 
ings are out, and the band plays in the casino 
every night — then I'm the Hermit of Baldpate 
Mountain. I come down here and sell picture 
post-cards of myself to the ladies." 

Mr. Magee appeared overcome with mirth. 

"A professional hermit, by the gods !" he cried. 
"Say, I didn't know Baldpate Mountain was fitted 
up with all the modern improvements. This is 
great luck. I'm an amateur at the hermit busi- 
ness, you'll have to teach me the fine points. Sit 
down." 

"Just between ourselves, I'm not a regular her- 
mit," said the plump bewhiskered one, sitting gin- 
gerly on the edge of a frail chair. "Not one of 
these *all for love of a woman' hermits you read 
about in books. Of course, I have to pretend I 
am, in summer, in order to sell the cards and do 
my whole duty by the inn management. A lot of 
the women ask me in soft tones about the great 
disappointment that drove me to old Baldpate, 
and I give 'em various answers, according to how 
I feel. Speaking to you as a friend, and consider- 
ing the fact that it's the dead of winter, I may say 



74 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

there was little or no romance in my life. I mar- 
ried early, and stayed married a long time. I 
came up here for peace and quiet, and because I 
felt a man ought to read something besides time- 
tables and tradesmen's bills, and have something 
over his head besides a first and second mortgage." 

"Back to nature, in other words," remarked 
Mr. Magee. 

"Yes, sir — back with a rush. I was down to 
the village this morning for a few groceries, and 
I stopped off at Quimby's, as I often do. He told 
me about you. I help him a lot around the inn, 
and we arranged I was to stop in and start your 
fire, and do any other little errands you might 
want done. I thought we ought to get acquainted, 
you and me, being as we're both literary men, 
after a manner of speaking." 

"No?" cried Mr. Magee. 

"Yes," said the Hermit of Baldpate. *1 dip 
into that work a little now and then. Some of my 
verses on the joys of solitude have appeared in 
print — on the post-cards I sell to the guests in the 
summer. But my life-work, as you might call It, 
is a book I've had under way for some time. It's 



A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT 75 

called simply Woman. Just that one word — but, 
oh, the meaning in it! That book is going to 
prove that all the trouble in the world, from the 
beginning of time, was caused by females. Not 
just say so, mind you. Prove it!" 

"A difficult task, I'm afraid," smiled Magee. 

"Not difficult — long," corrected the hermit. 
"When I started out, four years ago, I thought it 
would just be a case of a chapter on Eve, and hon- 
orable mention for Cleopatra and Helen of Troy, 
and a few more like tliat, and the thing would be 
done. But as I got into the subject, I was fairly 
buried under new evidence. Then Mr. Carnegie 
came along and gave Upper Asquewan Falls a 
library. It's wonderful to think the great works 
that man will be responsible for. I've dedicated 
Woman to him. Since the new library, I've dug 
'up information about a thousand disasters I never 
dreamed of before, and I contend that if you go 
back a ways in any one of 'em, you'll find the 
fluffy little lady that started the whole rumpus. 
So I hunt the woman. I reckon the French would 
call me the greatest cherchez la femme in history.'* 

"A fascinating pursuit," laughed Mr. Magee. 



*je SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 



«T' 



I'm glad you've told me about it, and I shall 
watch the progress of the work with interest. Al- 
though I can't say that I entirely agree with you. 
Here and there is a woman who more than makes 
amends for whatever trouble her sisters have 
caused. One, for instance, with golden hair, and 
eyes that when they weep — " 

*'You're young," interrupted the little man, ris- 
ing. *There ain't no use to debate it with you. 
I might as well try to argue with a storm at sea. 
Some men keep the illusion to the end of their 
days, and I hope you're one. I reckon I'll start 
your fire." 

He went into the outer room, and Mr. Magee 
lay for a few moments listening to his prepara- 
tions about the fireplace. This was comfort, he 
thought. And yet, something was wrong. Was 
it the growing feeling of emptiness inside? Un- 
doubtedly. He sat up in bed and leaning over, 
^gazed into the hermit's basket. The packages he 
saw there made his feeling of emptiness the more 
acute. 

"I say, Mr. Peters," he cried, leaping from bed 
and running into the other room, where the her- 



A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT *]*2 

mit was persuading a faint blaze, "I've an idea. 
You can cook, can't you?" 

**Cook?" repeated the hermit. "Well, yes, I've 
had to learn a few things about it, living far from 
the rathskellars the way I do.'* 

"The very man," rejoiced Mr. Magee. "You 
must stay here and cook for me — for us." 

"Us ?" asked the hermit, staring. 

"Yes. I forgot to tell you. After Mr. Quimby 
left me last night, two other amateur hermits hove 
in view. One is a haberdasher with a broken 
heart — " 

"Woman," cried the triumphant Peters. 

"Name, Arabella," laughed Magee. "The 
other's a college professor who made an indiscreet 
remark about blondes. You won't mind them, I'm 
sure, and they may be able to help you a lot with 
your great work." 

"I don't know what Quimby will say,'* studied 
the hermit. "I reckon he'll run 'em out. He's 
against this thing — afraid of fire." 

"Quimby will come later," Mr. Magee assured 
him, drawing on a dressing-gown. "Just now the 
idea is a little water in yonder tub, and a nice 



78 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

cheerful breakfast after. It's going to pay you a 
lot better than selling post-cards to romantic 
ladies, I promise you. I won't take you away 
from a work for which the world is panting with- 
out more than making it up to you financially. 
Where do you stand as a coffee maker?" 

"Wait till you taste it," said Peters reassur- 
ingly. "I'll bring you up some water." 

He started for the door, but Mr. Magee pre- 
ceded him. 

"The haberdasher," he explained, "sleeps be- 
low, and he's a nervous man. He might commit 
the awful error of shooting the only cook on 
Baldpate Mountain." 

Mr. Magee went out into the hall and called 
from the depths the figure of Bland, fully attired 
in his flashy garments, and looking tawdry and 
tired in the morning light. 

"I've been up hours," he remarked. "Heard 
somebody knocking round the kitchen, but I ain't 
seen any breakfast brought in on a silver tray. 
My inside feels like the Mammoth Cave." 

Mr. Magee introduced the Hermit of Baldpate. 

"Pleased to meet you," said Bland. "I guess it 



A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT 79^ 

was you I heard in tlie kitchen. So you're going 
to cater to this select few, are you ? BeHeve me, 
you can't get on the job any too soon to suit me.'* 

Out of a near-by door stepped the black-garbed 
figure of Professor Thaddeus Bolton, and him 
Mr. Magee included in the presentation cere- 
monies. After the hermit had disappeared below, 
burdened with his market basket and the supplies 
Mr. Magee had brought the night before, the 
three amateurs at the hermit game gathered by 
the fire in number seven, and Mr. Bland spoke 
feelingly : 

"I don't know where you plucked that cook, but 
believe me, you get a vote of thanks from yours 
truly. What is he — an advertisement for a hair 
restorer ?" 

"He's a hermit," explained Magee, "and lives 
in a shack near the mountain-top. Hermits and 
barbers aren't supposed to mix. He's also an au- 
thor, and is writing a book in which he lays all the 
trouble of the ages at the feet of woman. Please 
treat him with the respect all these dignified activ- 
ities demand." 

"A writer, you say," commented Professor Bol- 



8o SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

ton. ''Let us hope it will not interfere with his 
cooking abilities. For even I, who am not much 
given to thought about material things, must ad- 
mit the presence of a gnawing hunger within." 

They talked little, being men unfed, while Jake 
Peters started proceedings in the kitchen, and 
tramped up-stairs with many pails of water. Mr. 
Magee requested warm water for shaving; where- 
upon he was regarded with mingled emotions by 
his companions. 

*'Ypu ain't going to see any skirts up here," Mr. 
Bland promised him. And Mr. Peters, bringing 
the water from below, took occasion to point out 
that shaving was one of man's troubles directly 
attributable to woman's presence in the world. 

At length the hermit summoned them to break- 
fast, and as they descended the broad stair the 
heavenly odor of coffee sent a glow to their hearts. 
Peters had built a rousing fire in the big fireplace 
opposite the clerk's desk in the office, and in front 
of this he had placed a table which held promise 
of a satisfactory breakfast. As the three sat 
down, Mr. Bland spoke ; 



A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT 8i 

''1 don't know about you, gentlemen, but I could 
fall on Mr. Peters' neck and call him blessed.'* 

The gentleman thus referred to served them 
genially. He brought to Mr. Magee, between 
whom and himself he recognized the tie of au- 
thorship, a copy of a New York paper that he 
claimed to get each morning from the station 
agent, and which helped him greatly, he said, in 
his eternal search for the woman. As the meal 
passed, Mr. Magee glanced it through. Twice he 
looked up from it to study keenly his queer com- 
panions at Baldpate Inn. Finally he handed it 
across the table to the haberdasher. The dull yel- 
low sun of a winter morning drifted in from the 
white outdoors; the fire sputtered gaily in the 
grate. Also, Mr. Peters' failing for literature in- 
terfered in no way with his talents as cook. The 
three finished the repast in great good humor, and 
Mr. Magee handed round cigars. 

'"Gentlemen," he remarked, pushing baclc his 
'chair, "we find ourselves in a peculiar position. 
Three lone men, knowing nothing of one another, 
we have sought the solitude of Baldpate Inn at 



82 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

almost the same moment. Why ? East night, be- 
fore you came, Professor Bolton, Mr. Bland gave 
me as his reason for being here the story of Ara- 
bella, which I afterward appropriated as a joke 
and gave as my own reason. I related to Mr. 
Bland the fiction about the artist and the besieg- 
ing novelists. We swapped stories when you 
came — it was our merry little method of doubting 
each other's word. Perhaps it was bad taste. At 
any rate, looking at it in the morning light, I am 
inclined to return Mr. Bland's Arabella, and no 
questions asked. He is again the lovelorn haber- 
dasher. I am inclined to believe, implicitly, your 
story. That is my proposition. No doubts of one 
another. We are here for whatever reasons we 
say we are." 

The professor nodded gravely. 

"Last night," went on Mr. Magee, "there was 
some talk between Mr. Bland and myself about 
one of us leaving the inn. Mr. Bland demanded 
it. I trust he sees the matter differently this morn- 
ing, I for one should be sorry to see him go." 

"I've changed my mind," said Mr. Bland. The 
look on his thin face was not a pleasant one. 



A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT 83 

''Very good," went on Mr. Magee. "I see no 
reason why we should not proceed on friendly 
terms. Mr. Peters has agreed to cook for us. He 
can no doubt be persuaded to attend to our other 
wants. For his services we shall pay him gener- 
ously, in view of the circumstances. As for 
Quimby — I leave you to make your peace with 

him.'' 

"I have a letter to Mr. Quimby from my old 
friend, John Bentley," said the professor, "which 
I am sure will win me the caretaker's warm re- 
gard." 

Mr. Magee looked at Bland. 

"I'll get Andy Rutter on the wire," said that 
gentleman. "Quimby will listen to him, I guess." 

"Maybe," remarked Magee carelessly. "Who is 
Rutter?" 

"He's manager of the inn when it's open," an- 
swered Bland. He looked suspiciously at Magee. 
"I only know him slightly," he added. 

"Those matters you will arrange for your- 
selves," Mr. Magee went on. "I shall be very 
glad of your company if you can fix it to stay. 
Believe it or not — I forgot, we agreed to believe. 



84 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

didn't we? — I am here to do some writing. I'm 
going up to my room now to do a little work. All 
I ask of you gentlemen is that, as a favor to me, 
you refrain from shooting at each other while I 
am gone. You see, I am trying to keep crude 
melodrama out of my stuff." 

*T am sure," remarked Professor Bolton, *'that 
the use of firearms as a means of social diversion 
between Mr. Bland and myself is unthought of." 

*'I hope so," responded Magee. *'There, then, 
the matter rests. We are here — that is all." He 
hesitated, as though in doubt. Then, with a de- 
cisive motion, he drew toward him the New York 
paper. With his eyes on the head-lines of the first 
page, he continued : *T shall demand no further 
explanations. And except for this once, I shall 
make no reference to this story in the newspaper, 
to the effect that early yesterday morning, in a 
laboratory at one of our leading universities, a 
young assistant instructor was found dead under/ 
peculiar circumstances." He glanced keenly at the 
bald-headed little man across from him. "Nor 
shall I make conversation of the fact," he added, 
"that the professor of chemistry at the university. 



A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT 85 

a man past middle age, respected highly in the uni- 
versity circle, is missing." 

An oppressive silence followed this remark. 
Mr. Bland's sly eyes sought quickly the profess- 
or's face. The older man sat staring at his plate ; 
then he raised his head and the round spectacles 
were turned full on Magee. 

*'You are very kind," said Professor Bolton 
evenly. 

"There is another story In this paper," went on 
Mr. Magee, glancing at the haberdasher, *'that, it 
seems to me, I ought to taboo as table talk at Bald- 
pate Inn. It relates that a few days ago the youth- 
ful cashier of a bank in a small Pennsylvania 
town disappeared with thirty thousand dollars of 
the bank's funds. No," he concluded, "we are 
simply here, gentlemen, and I am very glad to let 
it go at that." 

Mr. Bland sneered knowingly. 

"I should think you w^ould be," he said. "If 
you'll turn that paper over you'll read on the bade 
page that day before yesterday a lot of expensive 
paintings in a New York millionaire's house were 
cut from their frames, and that the young artis^ 



86 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

who was doing retouching in the house at the time 
has been just careless enough not to send his ad- 
dress to the poHce. It's a small matter, of course, 
and the professor and I will never mention it[ 
again." 

Mr. Magee threw back his head and laughed 
heartily. 

*'We understand one another, it seems," he 
said. 'T look forward to pleasant companionship 
where I had expected solitude. You will excuse 
me now — there is the work to which I referred. 
Ah, here's Peters," he added as the hermit en- 
tered through the dining-room door at the side of 
the stairs. 

"All finished, gentlemen?" he asked, coming 
forward. "Now, this is solid comfort, ain't it? 
I reckon when you get a few days of this, you'll 
all become hermits, and build yourselves shacks 
pn the mountain. Solid comfort. No woman to 
make you put on overshoes when you go out, or 
lecture you about the effects of alcohol on the 
stomach. Heaven, I call it." 

"Peters," said Mr. Magee, "we have been won- 



A PROFESSIONAL HERMIT 87 

dering if you will stay on here and cook for us. 
.We need you. How about it ?'* 

"Well — I'll be glad to help you out," the her- 
tnit replied. "I guess I can manage to give satis-' 
faction, seeing there ain't no women around. If 
there was, I wouldn't think of it. Yes, I'll stay 
and do what I can to boost the hermit life in your\ 
estimation. I — '* 

He stopped. His eyes were on the dining-room ; 
door, toward which Mr. Magee's back was turned. 
The jaw of Peters fell, and his mouth stood wide 
open. Behind the underbrush of beard a very 
surprised face was discernible. 

Mr. Magee turned quickly. A few feet inside 
the door stood the girl of the station, weeping no 
more, but radiant with smiles. Back of her was 
J the determined impossible companion of yester- 
day. 

"Oh, mamma," laughed the girl, "we're too late 
lor breakfast ! Isn't it a shame ?" 

Mr. Bland's lean hands went quickly to adjust 
his purple tie. Professor Bolton looked every 
inch the owl as he blinked in dazed fashion at the 



88 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

blue corduroy vision. Gingerly Mr. Peters set 
down the plates he had taken from the table, still 
neglecting his open mouth. 

Mr. Magee rose from the table, and went for- 
ward with .outstretched hand. 



CHAPTER V 

THE MAYOR CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 



(t 



F 



ROM tears to smiles," said Mr. Magee, 
taking the girl's hand. "What worked the 
transformation? Not the Commercial House, I 
know, for I passed it last evening." 

"No, hardly the Commercial House," laughed 
the girl. "Rather the sunshine of a winter morn- 
ing, the brisk walk up the mountain, and the sight 
of the Hermit of Baldpate with eyes like saucers 
staring at a little girl who once bought his postal 
cards." 

"Then you know Mr. Peters ?" inquired Magee. 

"Is that his name ? You see, I never met him in 
private life — he was just the hermit when I knew 
him. I used to come to Baldpate in the summers, 
and send his cards back to the folks at home, and 
dream dreams of his love-story when from my 
window I saw the light of his shack at night. Vm 
so glad to meet Mr. Peters informally." 

89 



90 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

She held out her hand, but Peters, by long prac- 
tise wary of women, had burdened himself witH 
^breakfast plates which prevented his clasping it. 
He muttered "How d'ye do?" and fled toward the 
door, narrowly averting what would have proved 
a serious collision with the large woman on the 
way. 

"Mr. Peters meets so few of your sex in win- 
ter," Magee apologized, "you must pardon his 
clumsiness. This gentleman" — he indicated the 
professor, who arose — "is Thaddeus Bolton, a 
distinguished member of a certain university fac- 
ulty, who has fled to Baldpate to escape the press 
of America. And this is Mr. Bland, who hides 
here from the world the scars of a broken heart 
But let us not go into details." 

The girl smiled brightly. ."And you — " she 
asked. 

"William Hallowell Magee," he returned, bow- 
ing low. "I have a neat little collection of stories 
accounting for my presence here, from which I 
shall allow you to choose later. Not to mention 
the real one, which is simple almost to a fault." 

"I am so happy to meet you all," said the girl.. 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 91 

"We shall no doubt become very good friends. 
For mamma and I have also come to Baldpate 
Inn — to stay." 

Mr, Bland opened wide his usually narrow eyes, 
and ran his hand thoughtfully over his one day's 
beard. Professor Bolton blinked his astonish- 
ment. Mr. Magee smiled. 

"I, for one, am delighted to hear it," he said. 

"My name," went on the girl, "is Mary Norton, 
May I present my mother, Mrs. Norton ?" 

The older woman adopted what was obviously 
her society manner. Once again Mr. Magee felt 
a pang of regret that this should be the parent of 
a girl so charming. 

"I certainly am pleased to meet you all," she 
said in her heavy voice. "Ain't it a lovely morn- 
ing after the storm? The sun's almost blinding.'* 

"Some explanation," put in Miss Norton quick- 
ly, "is due you if I am to thrust myself thus upon 
you. I am perfectly willing to tell why I am 
here — but the matter mustn't leak out. I can trust 
you, I'm sure." 

' Mr. Magee drew up chairs, and the two women 
were seated before the fire. 



^2 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

'The bandits of Baldpate," he remarked flip- 
pantly, glancing at the two men, "have their own 
code of honor, and the first rule is never to betray 
a pal." 

"Splendid !" laughed the girl. "You said, I be- 
lieve, that Professor Bolton was fleeing from the 
newspapers. I am fleeing for the newspapers — • 
to attract their attention — to lure them into giving 
me that thing so necessary to a woman in my pro- 
fession, publicity. You see, I am an actress. The 
name I gave you is not my stage name. That, 
perhaps, you would know. I employ a gentleman 
to keep me before the public as much as possible. 
It's horrid, I know, but it means bread and butter 
to me. That gentleman, my press-agent, evolved 
the present scheme — a mysterious disappearance." 
j She paused and looked at the others. Mr. Ma- 
gee surveyed her narrowly. The youthful bloom 
of her cheek carried to him no story of grease 
paint; her unaffected manner was far from sug- 
gesting anything remotely connected with the 
stage. He wondered. 

"I am to disappear completely for a time," she 
went on. " *As though the earth had swallowed 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 93 

me' will be the good old phrase of the reporters. 
I am to linger here at Baldpate Inn, .1 key to which 
my press-agent has secured for me. Meanwhile, 
the papers will speak tearfully of me in their head- 
lines — at least, I hope they will. Can't you just 
see them — those head-lines? 'Beautiful Actress 
Drops from Sight'." She stopped, blushing. 
*'Every woman who gets into print, you know, is 
beautiful." 

"But it'd be no lie in your case, dearie," put in 
Mrs. Norton, feeling carefully of her atrociously 
blond store hair. 

"Your mother takes the words from my 
mouth," smiled Mr. Magee. "Guard as they will 
against it, the newspapers let the truth crop out 
occasionally. And this will be such an occasion." 

"From what part of Ireland do you come?" 
laughed the girl. She seemed somewhat embar- 
rassed by her mother's open admiration. "Well, 
setting all blarney aside, such will be the head-, 
lines. And when the last clue is exhausted, and 
my press-agent is the same, I come back to appear 
in a new play, a well-known actress. Of such flip- 
pant things is a Broadway reputation built." 



94 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"We all wIsH you success, I'm sure." Mr. Ma- 
gee searched his memory in vain for this "ac- 
itress's" name and fame. Could it be possible, he 
fwondered, at this late day, that any one would try 
for publicity by such an obvious worn-out road? 
Hardly. The answer was simple. Another fable 
was being spun from whole cloth beneath the roof 
of Baldpate Inn. "We have a New York paper 
here," he went on, "but as yet there seems to be 
no news of your sad disappearance," 

"Wouldn't it be the limit if they didn't fall for 
it ?" queried the older woman. 

"Fall for it," repeated Professor Bolton, not 
questioningly, but with the air of a scientist about 
to add a new and rare specimen to his alcohol jar. 

"She means, if they didn't accept my disappear- 
'ance as legitimate news," explained the girl. 
"That would be very disappointing. But surely 
there was no harm in making the experiment." 

"They're a clever lot, those newspaper guys," 
sneered Mr. Bland, "in their own opinion. But 
when you come right down to it, every one of 'em 
has a nice little collection of gold bricks in his 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 95 

closet. I guess youVe got them going. I hope 
Sp. 

"Thanic you/' smiled the girl. *'You are very 
kind. You are here, I understand, because of an 
unfortunate — er — affair of the heart?" 

Mr. Bland smoothed back his black oily hair 
from his forehead, and smirked. "Oh, now — " 
he protested. 

"Arabella," put in Mr. Magee, "was her name. 
The beauties of history and mythology hobbled 
into oblivion at sight pf her." 

"I'm quick to forget," insisted Mr. Bland. 

"That does you no credit, I'm sure," replied the 
girl severely. "And now, mamma, I think we 
had better select our rooms — " 

She paused. For Elijah Quimby had come in 
through the dining-room door, and stood gazing 
at the grpup before the fire, his face reflecting 
what Mr. Magee, the novelist, would not have hes- 
itated a moment in terming "mingled emotions". 

"Well,'' drawled Mr. Quimby. He strode mto 
the room. "Mr. Magee," he said, "that letter 
from Mr. Bentley asked me to let you stay at 



96 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Baldpate Inn. There wasn't anything in it about 
your bringing parties of friends along." 

"These are not friends I've brought along," ex- 
plained Magee. "They're simply some more ama- 
teur hermits who have strolled in from time to 
time. All have their individual latch-keys to the 
hermitage. And all, I believe, have credentials 
for you to examine." 

Mr. Quimby stared in angry wonder. 

"Is the world crazy?" he demanded. "Any one 
'd think it was July, the way people act. The 
inn's closed, I tell you. It ain't running." 

Professor Bolton rose from his chair. 

"So you are Quimby," he said in a soothing 
tone. "I'm glad to meet you at last. My old 
friend John Bentley has spoken of you so often. 
I have a letter from him." He drew the care- 
taker to one side, and took an envelope from his 
pocket. The two conversed in low tones. 

Quickly the girl in the corduroy suit leaned to- 
ward Mr. Magee. She whispered, and her tone 
was troubled : 

"Stand by me. I'm afraid I'll need your help.** 

"What's the matter?" inquired Magee. 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 97 

*1 haven't much of any right here, I guess. But 
I had to come." 

"But your key?" 

*'I fear my — my press-agent — stole it." 

A scornful remark as to the antiquated methods 
of that mythical publicity promoter rose to Mr. 
Magee's lips, but before he spoke he looked into 
her eyes. And the remark was never made. For 
in their wonderful depths he saw worry and fear 
and unhappiness, as he had seen them there amid 
tears in the station. 

"Never mind," he said very gently, "I'll see you 
through." 

Quimby was standing over Mr. Bland. "How 
about you ?" he asked. 

"Call up Andy Rutter and ask about me," re- 
plied Bland, in the tone of one who prefers war 
to peace. 

"I work for Mr. Bentley," said Quimby. 
"Rutter hasn't any authority here. He isn't to b^ 
manager next season, I understand. However, 
the professor wants me to let you stay. He says 
he'll be responsible." Mr. Bland looked in open- 
mouthed astonishment at the unexpected sponsor 



98 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

he had found. "And you?" went on Quimby to 
the women. 

"Why — " began Miss Norton. 

"Absolutely all right," said Mr. Magee. "They 
come from Hal Bentley, like myself. He*s put 
them in my care. I'll answer for them." He saw 
the girl's eyes ; they spoke her thanks. 

Mr. Quimby shook his head as one in a dream. 

"All this is beyond me — way beyond," he rumi- 
nated. "Nothing like it ever happened before 
that I've heard of. I'm going to write all about it 
to Mr. Bentley, and I suppose I got to let you stay 
till I hear from him. I think he ought to come up 
here, if he can." 

"The more the merrier," said Mr. Magee, re- 
flecting cheerfully that the Bentleys were in Flor- 
ida at last accounts. 

"Come, mamma," said Miss Norton, rising, 
"let's go up and pick out a suite. There's one I 
used to have a few years ago — you can see the* 
■hermit's shack from the windows. By the way, 
Mr. Magee, will you send Mr. Peters up to us? 
He may be able to help us get settled." 

"Ahem," muttered Mr. Magee, "I — I'll have a 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 99 

talk with Peters. To be quite franlc, I anticipate 
trouble. You see, the Hermit of Baldpate doesn't 
approve pf women — " 

*'Don't approve of women," cried Mrs. Norton, 
her green eyes flashing. "Why not, I'd like to 
know r 

"My dear madam," responded Mr. Magee, 
"only echo answers, and it but vacuously repeats, 
*Why not?'. That, however, is the situation. 
Mr. Peters loathes the sex. I imagine that, until 
to-day, he was not particularly happy in the ex- 
amples of it he encountered. Why, he has even 
gone so far as to undertake a book attributing 
all the trouble of the world to woman." 

"The idiot !" cried Mrs. Norton. 

"Delicious !" laughed the girl. 

"I shall ask Peters to serve you," said Magee. 
"I shall appeal to his gallant side. But I must 
proceed gently. This is his first day as our cook, 
and you know how necessary a good first impres- 
sion is with a new cook. I'll appeal to his better 
nature." 

"Don't do it," cried the girl. "Don't empha- 
size us to him in any way, or he may exercise his 



100 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

right as cook and leave. Just ignore us. We'll 
play at being our own bell-boys." 

"Ignore you," cried Mr. Magee. "What Her- 
culean tasks you set. I'm not equal to that one." 
He picked up their traveling-bags and led the way 
np-stairs. "I'm something of a bell-boy myself, 
when roused," he said. 

The girl selected suite seventeen, at the farther 
end of the corridor from Magee's apartments. 
"It's the very one I used to have, years and years 
ago — at least two or three years ago," she said. 
"Isn't it stupid? All the furniture in a heap." 

"And cold," said Mrs. Norton. "My land, I 
wish I w^as back by my own fire." 

"I'll make you regret your words, Mrs. Nor- 
ton," cried Magee. He threw up the windows, 
pulled off his coat, and set to work on the furni- 
ture. The girl bustled about, lightening his work 
by her smile. Mrs. Norton managed to get con- 
sistently in the way. When he had the furniture 
distributed, he procured logs and tried his hand 
at a fire. Then he stood, his black hair disheveled, 
his hands soiled, but his heart very gay, before 
the girl vi Xhe station. 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE loi 
"I hope you don't expect a tip," she said, laugh- 



ing. 



"I do," he said, coming closer, and speaking 
,in a voice that was not for the ear of the chap- 
eron. "I want a tip on this — do you really act ?" 

She loolced at him steadily. 

"Once," she said, *'when I was sixteen, I ap- 
peared in an amateur play at school. It was my 
first and last appearance on the stage." 

"Thanks, lady," remarked Mr. Magee in imi- 
tation of the bell-boy he was supposed to be. He 
sought number seven. There he made himself 
again presentable, after which he descended to 
the office, 

Mr. Bland sat reading the New York paper 
before the fire. From the little card-room and 
the parlor, the two room.s to the right and left 
of the hotel's front door, Quimby had brought 
forth extra chairs. He stood now by the large 
I chair that held Professor Bolton, engaged in con- 
versation with that gentleman. 

"Yes," he was saying, "I lived three years in 
Reuton and five years in New York. It took me 
eight years — eight years to realize the truth." 



102 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"I heard about it from John Bentley," the pro- 
fessor said gently. 

*'He's been pretty kind to me, Mr. Bentley 
Ihas/' replied Quimby. "When the money was 
all gone, he offered me this job. Once the Quim- 
bys owned most of the land around Baldpate 
Mountain. It all went in those eight years. To 
think that it took all those years for me to find 
it out." 

*Tf I'm not impertinent, Quimby," put in Ma- 
gee, "to find what out ?" 

"That what I wanted, the railroad men didn't 
want," replied Quimby bitterly, "and that was — 
the safety of the public. You see, I invented a 
new rail joint, one that was a great improvement 
on the old kind. I had sort of an idea, when I 
was doing it — an idea of service to the world 
— you know. God, what a joke! I sold all the 
1 Quimby lands, and went to Reuton, and then to 
New York, to place it. Not one of the railroad 
men but admitted that it was an improvement, 
and a big one — and not one but fought like mad 
to keep me from getting it down where the pub- 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 103 

lie would see it. They didn't want the expense 
of a change." 

Mr. Quimby looked out at the sunlit stretch of 



snow. 

li 



Eight years," he repeated, "I fought and 
pleaded. No, I begged — that was the word — I 
begged. You'd be surprised to know the names 
of some of the men who kept me waiting in their 
private offices, and sneered at me over their pol- 
ished desks. They turned me down — every one. 
Some of them played me — as though I'd been a 
fish. They referred me to other ends of the 
same big game, laughing in their sleeves, I guess, 
at the knowledge of how hopeless it was. Oh, 
they made a fine fool of me." 

"You might have put down some of your joints 
at your own expense," suggested the professor. 

"Didn't I try ?" cried Quimby. "Do you think , 
they'd let me? No, the public might see them 
and demand them everywhere. Once, I thought 
I had convinced somebody. It was down in 
Reuton — the Suburban Railway." There was a 
rustle as Mr. Bland let his paper fall to the floor. 



«1 



104 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Old Henry Thornhill was president of the road 
" — he is yet, I guess — but young Hayden and a 
fellow named David Kendrick were running it. 
Kendrick was on my side — he almost had Hay- 
den. They were going to let me lay a stretch of 
track with my joints. Then — something hap- 
pened. Maybe you remember. Kendrick disap- 
peared in the night — he's never been seen since." 
I do remember/' said the professor softly. 
Hayden turned me down," went on Quimby. 
"The money was all gone. So I came back to 
Upper Asquewan — caretaker of an inn that over- 
looks the property my father owned — the prop- 
erty I squandered for a chance to save human 
lives. It's all like a dream now — those eight 
years. And it nearly drives me mad, sometimes, 
to think that it took me eight years — eight years 
to find it out. ril just straighten things around 
a bit." 

He moved away, and the men sat in silence for 
a time. Then the professor spoke very gently: 

"Poor devil — to have had his dream of service 
— and then grow old on Baldpate." 

The two joined Mr. Bland by the fire. Mn 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 105 

Magee had put from his mind all Intention of 
work. The maze of events through which he 
wandered held him bewildered and enthralled. 
He looked at the haberdasher and the university 
scholar and asked himself if they were real, or 
if he was still asleep in a room on a side street 
in New York, waiting for the cheery coming of 
Geoffrey. He asked himself still more perplex- 
edly if the creature that came toward him now 
through the dining-room door was real — the 
hairy Hermit of Baldpate, like a figure out of 
some old print, his market basket on his arm 
again, his coat buttoned to the chin. 

"Well, everything's shipshape in the kitchen/^ 
announced the hermit cheerfully. "I couldn't go 
without seeing to that. I wish you the best of 
luck, gentlemen — and good-by." 

"Good-by?" cried the professor. 

*'By the gods, he's leaving us," almost wept 
Mr. Bland. 

"It can't be," said Mr. Magee. 

"It has to be," said the Hermit of Baldpate, 
solemnly shaking his head. "I'd like to stay with 
you, and I would of, if they hadn't come. But 



io6 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

here they are — and when women come in the 
door, I fly out of the window, as the saying is.'* 

"But, Peters,'' pleaded Magee, "you're not go- 
'"ing to leave us in the hole like this ?" 

"Sorry," replied Peters, "I can please men, 
but I can't please women. I tried to please one 
once — but let the dead past bury its dead. I live 
on Baldpate in a shack to escape the sex, and it 
wouldn't be consistent for me to stay here now. 
I got to go. I hate to, like a dog, but I got to." 

"Peters," said Mr. Magee, "I'm surprised. 
After giving your word to stay 1 And who knows 
' — you may be able to gather valuable data for 
your book. Stick around. These women won't 
bother you. I'll make them promise never to 
ask about the love-affair you didn't have — never 
even to come near you. And we'll pay you be- 
yond the dreams of avarice of a Broadway chef. 
[Won't we, gentlemen?" 

The others nodded. Mr. Peters visibly weak- 
ened. 

"Well-^" he began. "I — " His eyes were on 
the stair. Mr. Magee also looked in that direc- 
tion and saw the girl of the station smiling down. 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 107 

She no longer wore coat and hat, and the absence 
of the latter revealed a glory of golden hair 
that became instantly a rival to the sunshine in 
that drear bare room. 

"No, Peters," she said, *'you mustn't go. We 
couldn't permit it. Mamma and I will go." 

She continued to smile at the obviously daz- 
zled Peters. Suddenly he spoke in a determined 
tone: 

^'No— don't do that. I'll stay." Then he 
turned to Magee, and continued for that gentle- 
man's ear alone: "Dog-gone it, we're all alike. 
We resolve and resolve, and then one of them 
looks at us, and it's all forgot. I had a friend 
who advertised for a wife, leastways, he was a 
friend until he advertised. He got ninety-two re- 
plies, seventy of 'em from married men advising 
against the step. T'm cured,' he says to me. *Not 
for me.' Did he keep his word? No. A week 
after he married a widow just to see if what the 
seventy said was true. I'm mortal. I hang 
around the buzz-saw. If you give me a little 
money, I'll go down to the village and buy the 
provisions for lunch." 



168 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Gleefully Mr. Magee started the hermit on his 
way, and then went over to where the girl stood 
at the foot of the stairs. 

"I promised him," he told her, "you'd ask no 
questions regarding his broken heart. It seems he 
hasn't any." 

"That's horrid of him, isn't it?" she smiled. 
"Every good hermit is equipped with a broken 
heart. I certainly shan't bother him. I came 
down to get some water." 

They went together to the kitchen, found a 
pail, and filled it with icy water from the pump 
at the rear of the inn. Inside once more, Mr. 
Magee remarked thoughtfully: 

"Who would have guessed a week ago that to- 
day I would be climbing the broad staircase of a 
summer hotel carrying a pail of water for a lady 
fair?" 

They paused on the landing. 

"There are more things in heaven and earth, 
Horatio," smiled the girl,"than are dreamed of, 
even by novelists." Mr. Magee started. Had 
she recognized him as the Magee of light fiction? 
It seemed hardly likely; they read his books, but 



({^ 



t(^ 



HE CASTS A SHADOW BEFORE 109 

they rarely remembered his name. Her face 
went suddenly grave. She came closer. "I can't 
help wondering," she said, ^Svhich side you are 
cn.f^ 

'Which side of what?" asked Magee. 

'Why, of this," she answered, waving her hand 
toward the office below. 

*'I don't understand," objected Mr. Magee. 

''Let's not be silly," she replied. "You know 
what brought me here. I know what brought 
you. There are three sides, and only one is hon- 
est. I hope, so very much, that you are on that 
side." 

"Upon my word — " began Magee. 

"Will it interest you to know," she continued, 
"I saw the big mayor of Reuton in the village 
this morning? With him was his shadow, Lou 
Max. Let's see — you had the first key, Mr. 
Bland the second, the professor the third, and I 
had the fourth. The mayor has the fifth key, of 
course. He'll be here soon." 

"The mayor," gasped Mr. Magee. "Really, I 
haven't the slightest idea what you mean. I'm 
here to work — " 



no SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Very well," said the girl coldly, "if you wisH 
it that way." They came to the door of seven- 
teen, and she took the pail from Mr. Magee's 
hand. "Thanks." 

" 'Where are you going, my pretty maid ?' " 
asked Magee, indicating the pail. 

" * "I'll see you at luncheon, sir," she said,' " re- 
sponded Miss Norton, and the door of seventeen 
slammed shut. 

Mr. Magee returned to number seven, and 
thoughtfully stirred the fire. The tangle pf events 
bade fair to swamp him. 

"The mayor of Reuton," he mused, "has the 
fifth key. iWhat in the name of common sense 
is going on? It's too much even for melodra- 
matic me." He leaned back in his chair. "Any- 
how, I like her eyes," he said. "And I shouldn't 
want to be quoted as disapproving of her hair, 
either. I'm on her side, whichever it may be." 



I 



CHAPTER VI 

GHOSTS OF THE SUMMER CROWD 

WONDER," Miss Norton smiled up into 
Mr. Magee's face, "if you ever watched the 
people at a summer hotel get set on their mark for 
the sprint through the dining-room door ?'^ 

"No," answered Magee, "but I have visited the 
Zop at meal-time. They tell me it is much the 
same." 

"A brutal comparison," said the girl. "But 
just the same I'm sure that the head waiter who 
opens the door here at Baldpate must feel much 
the same at the moment as the keeper who prof- 
fers the raw meat on the end of the pitchfork. 
He faces such a wild determined mob. The 
front rank is made up of hard-faced women 
worn out by veranda gossip. Usually some stiff 
old dowager crosses the tape first. I was thinking 
that perhaps we resembled that crowd in the eyes 
of Mr. Peters now." 

Ill 



112 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

It was past one o'clock, and Mr. Magee with 
his four mysterious companions stood before the 
fire in the office, each with an eager eye out for 
the progress of the hermit, who was preparing 
the table beside them. Through the kindness of 
Quimby, the board was resplendent with snowy 
linen. 

"We may seem over-eager," commented Pro- 
fessor Bolton. "I have no doubt we do. It is 
only natural. With nothing to look forward to 
but the next meal, the human animal attaches a 
preposterous importance to his feeding. We are 
in the same case as the summer guests — '' 

*'Are we?" interrupted Mr. Magee. ''Have we 
nothing but the next meal to look forward to ? I 
think not. I haven't. I've come to value too 
highly the capacity for excitement of Baldpate 
Inn in December. I look forward to startling 
things. I expect, before the day is out, at least 
two gold-laced kings, an exiled poet, and a lord 
mayor, all armed with keys to Baldpate Inn and 
stories strange and unconvincing." 

"Your adventures of the last twenty-four 
hours," remarked the professor, smiling wanly, 



THE SUMMER CROWD 113 

**have led you to expect too much. I have made 
Inquiries of Quimby. There are, aside from his 
own, but seven keys in all to the various doors of 
Baldpate Inn. Four are here represented. It is 
hardly likely that the other three will send dele- 
gates, and if they should, you have but a 
slim chance for kings and poets. Even Baldpate's 
capacity for excitement, you see, is limited by the 
number of little steel keys which open its portals 
tp exiles from the outside world. I am reminded 
of the words of the philosopher — " 

"Well, Peters, old top," broke in Mr. Bland 
in robust tones, *'isn't she nearly off the fire?" 

"Now see here," said the hermit, setting down 
the armful of dishes with which he had entered 
the office, "I can't be hurried. I'm all upset, as it 
is. I can't cook to please women — I don't pretend 
to. I have to take all sorts of precautions with 
this lunch. Without meaning to be impolite, but 
i just because of a passion for cold facts, I may say 
that women are faultfinding." 

"I'm sure," said Miss Norton sweetly, "that 
I shall consider your luncheon perfect." 

"They get more faultfinding as they get old- 



114 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

er,'* replied Mr. Peters ungallantly, glancing at 
the other woman. 

Mrs. Norton glared. 

"Meaning me, I suppose," she rasped. "Well, 
don't worry. I ain't going to find anything 
wrong." 

"I ain't asking the impossible," responded Mr. 
Peters. "I ain't asking you not to find anything 
wrong. I'm just asking you not to mention it 
when you do." He retired to the kitchen. 

Mrs. Norton caressed her puffs lovingly. 

"What that man needs," she said, "is a 
woman's guiding hand. He's lived alone too long. 
I'd like to have charge of him for a while. Not 
that I wouldn't be kind — but I'd be firm. If poor 
Norton was alive to-day he'd testify that I was 
always kindness itself. But I insisted on his liv- 
ing up to his promises. When I was a girl I was 
mighty popular. I had a lot of admirers." 

"No one could possibly doubt that," Mr. Magee 
assured her. 

"Then Norton came along," she went on, re- 
warding Magee with a smile, "and said he wanted 
to make me happy. So I thought I'd let him try. 



THE SUMMER CROWD 115 

He was a splendid man, but there's no denying 
that in the years we were married he sometimes 
forgot what he started out to do. I always 
brought him up sharp. *Your great desire/ I told 
him, *is to make me happy. I'd keep on the job 
if I was you!' And he did, to the day of his 
death. A perfectly lovely man, though careless 
in money matters. If he hadn't had that failing 
I wouldn't be—" 

Miss Norton, her cheeks flushed, broke in hur- 
riedly. 

"Mamma, these gentlemen can't be at all inter- 
ested." Deftly she turned the conversation to 
generalities. 

Mr. Peters at last seated the winter guests of 
Baldpate Inn, and opened his luncheon with a 
soup which he claimed to have wrested from a 
can. This news drew from Professor Bolton a 
learned discourse on the tinned aids to the hermit 
of to-day. He pictured the seeker for solitude 
setting out for a desert isle, with canned foods 
for his body and canned music for his soul. "Rob- 
inson Crusoe," he said, "should be rewritten 
with a can-opener in the leading role." Mrs. 



ii6 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Norton gave the talk a more practical turn by 
bringing up the topic of ptomaine poisoning. 

While the conversation drifted on, Mr. Magee 
pondered in silence the weird mesh in which he 
had become involved. What did it all mean? 
What brought these people to Baldpate Christmas 
week? His eyes sought the great safe back of the 
desk, and stayed there a long time. In that safe, 
he was sure, lay the answer to this preposterous 
riddle. When his thoughts came back to the table 
he iound Mr. Bland eying him narrowly. There 
was a troubled look on the haberdasher's lean 
face that could never be ascribed to the cruelty 
of Arabella. 

The luncheon over. Miss Norton and her 
mother prepared to ascend to their rooms. Mr. 
Magee maneuvered so as to meet the girl at the 
foot of the stairs. 

** Won't you come back," he whispered softly, 
"and explain things to a poor hermit who is com- 
pletely at sea ?" 

What things?" she asked. 

What it all means," he whispered. "Why you 



(i^ 



((^ 



THE SUMMER CROWD 117 

wept in the station, why you invented the story 
of the actress, why you came here to brighten 
my drab exile — what this whole comedy of Bald- 
pate Inn amounts to, anyhow ? I assure you I am 
as innocent of understanding it as is the czar of 
Russia on his golden throne." 

She only looked at him with unbelieving eyes. 

*'You can hardly expect me to credit that," she 
said. ''I must go up now and read mamma into 
the pleasant land of thin girlish figures that is 
her afternoon siesta. I may come back and talk 
to you after a while, but I don't promise to ex- 
plain." 

''Come back," pleaded Mr. Magee. "That is 
all I ask." 

"A tiny boon," she smiled. "I grant it." 

She followed the generous figure of the other 
woman up the stair and, casting back a dazzling 
smile from the landing, disappeared. Mr. Magee 
turned to find Professor Bolton discoursing to 
Mr. Bland on some aspects of the Pagan Renais- 
sance. Mr. Bland's face was pained. 

"That's great stuff, Professor," he said, "and 



Ii8 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

usually I'd like it. But just now — I don't seem 
in the mood, somehow. Would you mind saving 
it for me till later?" ,. 

''Certainly," sighed the professor. Mr. Bland) 
slouched into the depths of his chair. Professor 
Bolton turned his disappointed face ceilingward. 
Laughing, Mr. Magee sought the solitude of 
number seven. 

"After all, I'm here to work," he told himself. 
"Alarms and excursions and blue eyes must not 
turn me from my task. Let's see — what was my 
task? A deep heart-searching novel, a novel de- 
void of rabid melodrama. It becomes more diffi- 
cult every minute here at Baldpate Inn. But that 
should only add more zest to the struggle. I 
devote the next two hours to thought." 

He pulled his chair up before the blazing 
hearth, and gazed into the red depths. But his 
thoughts refused to turn to the masterpiece that 
was to be born on Baldpate. They roamed to far- 
off Broadway ; they strolled with Helen Faulkner 
— the girl he meant to marry if he ever got round 
to it — along dignified Fifth Avenue. Then joy- 
ously they trooped to a far more alluring, more 



THE SUMMER CROWD 119 

human girl, who pressed a bit of cambric to het 
face in a railway station, while a ginger-haired 
agent peeped through the bars. How ridiculously 
small that bit of cambric had been to hide so mucH 
beauty. Soon Mr. Magee's thoughts were climbing 
Baldpate Mountain, there to wander In a mystic 
maze of ghostly figures which appeared from the 
shadows, holding aloft in triumph gigantic keys. 
Mr. Magee had slept but little the night before. 
The quick December dusk filled number seven 
when he awoke with a start. 

He remembered that he had asked the girl to 
come back to the of^ce, and berated himself to 
think that probably she had done so only to find 
that he was not there. Hastily straightening his 
tie, and dashing the traces of sleep from his eyes 
with the aid of cold water, he ran down-stairs. 

The great bare room was In darkness save for 

the faint red of the fire. Before the fireplace sat 

^the girl of the station, her hair gleaming with a 

new splendor in that light. She looked in mock 

reproval at Mr. Magee. 

*Tor shame," she said^ "to be late at the tryst- 
ing-place." 



120 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"A thousand pardons," Mr. Magee replied. *'I 
fell asleep and dreamed of a girl who wept in a 
railway station — and she was so altogether 
charming I could not tear myself away." 

"I fear," she laughed, "you are old in the ways 
of the world. A passion for sleep seems to have 
seized the hermits. The professor has gone to his 
room for that purpose. And Mr. Bland, his 
broken heart forgot, slumbers over there." She 
pointed to the haberdasher inert in a big chair 
drawn up near the clerk^s desk. "Only you and 
I in all the world awake." 

"Pretty lonesome, isn't it ?" Mr. Magee glanced 
over his shoulder at the shadows that crept in 
on them. 

"I was finding it very busy when you came," 
she answered. "You see, I have known the inn 
when it was gay with summer people, and as I 
sat here by the fire I pretended I saw the ghosts 
of a lot of the people I knew flitting about in the 
dusk. The rocking-chair fleet sailed by — " 

"The what?" 

"Black flag flying, decks cleared for action — I 
saw the rocking-chair fleet go by." She smiled 



THE SUMMER CROWD 121 

faintly. "We always called them that. Bitter, 
unkind old women who sat hour after hour on the 
veranda, and rocked and gossiped, and gossiped 
and rocked. All the old women in the world 
seem to gather at summer hotels. And, oh, the 
cruel mouths the fleet had — just thin lines of 
mouths — I used to look at them and wonder if 
any one had ever kissed them." 

The girl's eyes were very large and tender in 
the firelight. 

"And I saw some poor little ghosts weeping in 
a corner," she went on; "a few that the fleet had 
run down and sunk in the sea of gossip. A little 
ghost whose mother had not been all she should 
have been, and the fleet found it out, and rocked, 
and whispered, and she went away. And a few 
who were poor — the most terrible of sins — to 
them the fleet showed no mercy. And a fine 
proud girl, Myra Thornhill, who was engaged to 
a man named Kendrick, and who never dared 
come here again after Kendrick suddenly disap- 
peared, because of the whispered dishonors the 
fleet heaped upon his head." 

'What wicked women !" said Magee. 



t(^ 



122 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"The wickedest women in the world," answered 
the girl. "But every summer resort must have its 
,;fleet. I doubt if any other ever had its admiral, 
though — and that makes Baldpate supreme." 

"Its admiral ?" 

"Yes. He isn't really that, I imagine — sort of 
a vice, or an assistant, or whatever it is, long ago 
retired from the navy. Every summer he comes 
here, and the place revolves about him. It's all so 
funny. I wonder if any other crowd attains such 
heights of snobbishness as that at a summer 
resort? It's the admiral this, and the admiral 
that, from the moment he enters the door. Nearly 
every day the manager of Baldpate has a new 
picture of the admiral taken, and hangs it here in 
the hotel. I'll show them to you when it's light. 
There's one over there by the desk, of the admiral 
and the manager together, and the manager has 
thrown his arm carelessly over the admiral's 
ishoulder with 'See how well I know him' written 
*all over his stupid face. Oh, what snobs they 
are !" 

"And the fleet?" asked Mr. Magee. 

"Worships him. They fish all day for a smile 



THE SUMMER CROWD 123 

from him. They keep track of his goings and 
comings, and when he is in the card-room playing 
his silly old game of solitaire, they run down their 
victims in subdued tones so as not to disturb 
him." 

"What an interesting place," said Mr. Magee. 
"1 must visit Baldpate next summer. Shall — 
shall you be here ?" 

*Tt's so amusing," she smiled, ignoring the 
question. "You'll enjoy it. And it isn't all fleet 
and admiral. There's happiness, and romance, 
and whispering on the stairs. At night, when the 
lights are all blazing, and the band is playing 
waltzes in the casino, and somebody is giving a 
dinner in the grill-room, and the girls flit about 
in the shadows looking too sweet for words — well, 
Baldpate Inn is a rather entrancing spot. I re- 
member those nights very often now.'* 1 

Mr. Magee leaned closer. The flicker of the 
firelight on her delicate face, he decided, was an 
excellent effect. 

"I can well believe you do remember them," 
he said. "And it's no effort at all to me to pic- 
ture you as one of those who flitted through the 



124 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

shadows — too sweet for words. I can see you 
the heroine of whispering scenes on the stair. I 
can see you walking with a dazzled happy man 
on the mountain in the moonlight. Many men 
have loved you." 

"Are you reading my pakn?" she asked, laugh- 
ing. 

"No — ^your face," answered Mr. Magee. 
"Many men have loved you, for very few men are 
blind. I am sorry I was not the man on the stair, 
or on the mountain in the moonlight. Wlio knows 
— I might have been the favored one for my 
single summer of joy." 

The autumn always came," smiled the girl. 
It would never have come for me," he an- 
'swered. "Won't you believe me when I say that 
I have no part in this strange drama that is going 
on at Baldpate ? Won't you credit it when I say 
that I have no idea why you and the professor 
and Mr. Bland are here — nor why the Mayor of 
Reuton has the fifth key? Won't you tell me 
what it all means ?" 

"I mustn't," she replied, shaking her head. "I 



ii' 



*<^ 



THE SUMMER CROWD 125 

can trust no one — not even you. I mustn't believe 
that you don't know — it's preposterous. I must 
say over and over — even he is simply — will you 
pardon me — flirting, trying to learn what he can 
learn. I must.'* 

*'You can't even tell me why you wept in the 
station?" 

"For a simple silly reason. I was afraid. I 
had taken up a task too big for me by far — 
taken it up bravely when I was out in the sunlight 
of Reuton. But when I saw Upper Asquewan 
Falls, and the dark came, and that dingy station 
swallowed me up, something gave way inside me 
and I felt I was going to fail. So — I cried. A 
woman's way." 

"If I were only permitted to help — " Mr. Ma- 
gee pleaded. 

"No — I must go forward alone. I can trust 
no one, now. Perhaps things will change. I 
hope they will." 

"Listen," said Mr. Magee. "I am telling you 
the truth. Perhaps you read a novel called The 
Lost Limousine/' He was resolved to claim its 



126 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

authorship, tell her of his real purpose in coming 
to Baldpate, and urge her to confide in him re- 
garding the odd happenings at the inn. 

"Yes," said the girl before he could continue. 
"I did read it. And it hurt me. It was so terribly 
insincere. The man had talent who wrote it, but 
he seemed to say: 'It's all a great big joke. I 
don't believe In these people myself. I've just 
created them to make them dance for you. Don't 
be fooled — it's only a novel.' I don't like that sort 
of thing. I want a writer really to mean all he 
says from the bottom of his heart.'' 

Mr. Magee bit his lip. His determination to 
claim the authorship of The Lost Limousine was 
quite gone. 

"I want him to make me feel with his people," 
the girl went on seriously. "Perhaps I can explain 
by telling you of something that happened to me 
once. It was while I was at college. There was a 
blind girl in my class and one night I went to call 
on her. I met her in the corridor of her dormi- 
tory. Somebody had just brought her back from 
an evening lecture, and left her there. She un- 
locked her door, and we went in. It was pitch 



THE SUMMER CROWD 127 

dark in the room — the first thing I thought of 
was a light. But she — she just sat down and be- 
gan to talk. She had forgot to light the gas." 

The girl paused, her eyes very wide, and it 
seemed to Mr. Magee that she shivered slightly. 

"Can you imagine it?" she asked. "She chatted 
on — quite cheerfully as I remember it. And I — I 
stumbled round and fell into a chair, cold and 
trembly and sick with the awful horror of blind- 
ness, for the first time in my life. I thought I 
had imagined before what it was to be blind — 
just by shutting my eyes for a second. But as 
I sat there in the blackness, and listened to that 
girl chatter, and realized that it had never oc- 
curred to her to light a lamp — then for the first 
time — I knew — I knew." 

Again she stopped, and Mr. Magee, looking at 
her, felt what he had never experienced before — 
a thrill at a woman's near presence. 

"That's what I ask of a writer," she said, "that 
he make me feel for his people as I felt for that 
girl that night. Am I asking too much ? It need 
not be for one who is enmeshed in tragedy — it 
may be for one whose heart is as glad as a May 



128 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

morning. But he must make me feel. And he 
can't do that if he doesn't feel himself, can he ?" 

William Hallowell Magee actually hung his 
liead. 

"He can't," he confessed softly. "You're quite 
right. I like you immensely — more than I can 
say. And even if you feel you can't trust me, I 
want you to know that I'm on your side in what- 
ever happens at Baldpate Inn. You have only to 
ask, and I am your ally." 

"Thank you," she answered. "I may be very 
glad to ask. I shall remember." She rose and 
moved toward the stairs. "We had better dis- 
perse now. The rocking-chair fleet will get us 
if we don't watch out." Her small slipper was on 
the first step of the stair, when they heard a door 
slammed shut, and the sound of steps on the bare 
floor of the dining-room. Then a husky voice 
called "Bland". 

Mr. Magee felt his hand grasped by a much 
smaller one, and before he knew it he had been 
hurried to the shadows of the landing. "The fifth 
key," whispered a scared little voice in his ear. 
And then he felt the faint brushing of finger-tips 



THE SUMMER CROWD 129 

across his lips. A mad desire seized him to grasp 
those fingers and hold them on the lips they had 
scarcely touched. But the impulse was lost in the 
thrill of seeing the dining-room door thrown open 
and a great bulk of a man cross the floor of the 
office and stand beside Bland's chair. At his side 
was a thin waif who had not unjustly been 
termed the mayor of Reuton's shadow. 

"Asleep," bellowed the big man. "How's this 
for a watch-dog, Lou ?" 

"Right on the job, ain't he?" sneered the thin 
one. 

Mr. Bland started suddenly from slumber, and 
looked up into the eyes of the newcomers. 

"Hello, Cargan," he said. "Hello, Lou. For 
the love of heaven, don't shout so. The place is 
full of them." 

"Full of what?" asked the mayor. 

"Of spotters, maybe — I don't know what they 
are. There's an old high-brow and a fresh young 
guy, and two women." 

"People," gasped the mayor. "People — here ?" 

"Sure." 
, "You're asleep. Bland. 



>> 



130 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"No Fm not, Cargan/' cried the haberdasher. 
"Look around for yourself. The inn's overrun 
with them." 

Cargan leaned weakly against a chair. 

"Well, what do you know about that," he said. 
"And they kept telling me Baldpate Inn was the 
best place — say, this is one on Andy Rutter. Why 
didn't you get it out and beat it?" 

"How could I ?" Mr. Bland asked. "I haven't 
got the combination. The safe was left open for 
me. That was the agreement with Rutter." 

"You might have phoned us not to come," re- 
marked Lou, with an uneasy glance around. 

Mr. Cargan hit the mantelpiece with his huge 
fist. 

"By heaven, no," he cried. "I'll lift it from 
under their very noses. I've done it before — i 
can do it now. I don't care who they are. They 
can't touch me. They can't touch Jim Cargan. I 
lin't afraid." 

Mr. Magee, on the landing, whispered into his 
companion's ear. "I think I'll go down and greet 
our guests." He felt her grasp his arm suddenly, 
as though in fear, but he shook off her hand and 
debonairly descended to the group below. 



THE SUMMER CROWD 131 






Good evening, gentlemen," he said suavely. 
Welcome to Baldpate! Please don't attempt to 
explain — we're fed up on explanations now. You 
have the fifth key, of course. Welcome to our 
small but growing circle." 

The big man advanced threateningly. Mr. 
Magee saw that his face was very red, his neck 
very thick, but his mouth a cute little cupid's bow 
that might well have adorned a dainty baby in the 
park. 

"Who are you?" bellowed the mayor of Reu- 
ton in a tone meant to be cowering. 

"I forget," replied Mr. Magee easily. *'Bland, 
who am I to-day ? The cast-off lover of Arabella, 
the fleeing artist, or the thief of portraits from a 
New York millionaire's home ? Really, it doesn't 
matter. We shift our stories from time to time. 
As the first of the Baldpate hermits, however, it 
is my duty to welcome you, which I hereby do." 

The mayor pointed dramatically to the stair. 

"I give you fifteen minutes," he roared, "to 
pack up and get out. I don't want you here. Un- 
derstand ?" 

To Cargan's side came the slinking figure of 
Lou Max. His face was the withered yellow of 



tCi 



<(1 



132 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

an old lemon; his garb suggested shop-windows 
on dirty side streets; unpleasant eyes shifted be- 
hind a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. His attitude 
was that of the dog who crouches by its master. 
Clear out," he snarled. 

By no means," replied Magee, looking the 
mayor squarely in the eye. *'I was here first. 
I'm here to stay. Put me out, will you? Well, 
perhaps, after a fight. But I'd be back in an hour, 
and with me whatever police Upper Asquewan 
Falls owns to." 

He saw that the opposing force wavered at this. 

''I want no trouble, gentlemen," he went pn. 
"Believe me, I shall be happy to have your com- 
pany to dinner. Your command that I withdraw 
is ill-timed, not to say ill-natured and impolite. 
Let us all forget it." 

The mayor of Reuton turned away, and his 
dog slid into the shadows. 

"Have I your promise to stay to dinner?" went 
on Magee. No answer came from the trio in the 
dusk. "Silence gives consent," he added gaily. 
"You must excuse me while I dress. Bland, will 
you inform Mr. Peters that we are to have com- 



THE SUMMER CROWD 133 

pany to dinner ? Handle him gently. Emphasize 
the fact that our guests are men." 

He ran up the stairs. At the top of the second 
flight he met the girl, and her eyes, he thought, 
shone in the dark. 

"Oh, I'm so glad," she whispered. 

'*Glad of what?" asked Magee. 

"That you are not on their side," she answered. 

Mr. Magee paused at the door of number 
seven. 

"I should say not," he remarked. "Whatever 
it's all about, I should say not. Put on your pret- 
tiest gown, my lady. I've invited the mayor to 
dinner." 



CHAPTER VII 

THE MAYOR BEGINS A VIGIL 

ONE summer evening, in dim dead days gone 
by, an inexperienced head waiter at Bald- 
pate Inn had attempted to seat Mrs. J. San- 
derson Clark, of Pittsburgh, at the same table 
with the unassuming Smiths, of Tiffin, Ohio. 
The remarks of Mrs. Clark, who was at 
the time busily engaged in trying to 
found a first family, lingered long in the 
memory of those who heard them. So long, in 
fact, that Miss Norton, standing with Mr. Magee 
in the hotel office awaiting the signal from Peters 
that dinner was ready, could repeat them almost 
verbatim. Mr. Magee cast a humorous look 
about. 

"Lucky the manners and customs of the sum- 
mer folks aren't carried over into the winter," he 
said. 'Imagine a Mrs. Clark asked to sit at table 

134 



THE MAYOR BEGINS A VIGIL 135 

•• • - 

with the mayor of Reuton and his picturesque but 
somewhat soiled friend, Mr. Max. I hope the 
dinner is a huge success." 
' The girl laughed. 

"The natural nervousness of a host," she re- 
marked. *'Don't worry. The hermit and his tins 
won't fail you." 

"It's not the culinary end that worries me," 
smiled Magee. "It's the repartee and wit. I 
want the mayor to feel at home. Do you know 
any good stories ascribed to Congressman Jones, 
of the Asquewan district?" 

Together they strolled to a window. The snow 
had begun to fall again, and the lights of the little 
hamlet below showed but dimly through the white 
blur. 

"I want you to know," said the girl, "that I^ 
trust you now. And when the time comes, as it» 
will soon — to-night — I am going to ask you to 
help me. I may ask a rather big thing, and asK 
you to do it blindly, just trusting in me, as I re- 
fused to trust in you." She stopped and looked 
vtry seriously into Mr. Magee's face. 

Tm mighty glad," he answered in a low tone. 



«T>- 



136 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"From the moment I saw you weeping in the sta- 
tion I've wanted to be of help to you. The sta- 
tion agent advised me not to interfere. He said 
to become involved with a weeping woman meant 
trouble. The fool. As though any trouble — " 

"He was right," put in the girl, "it probably 
will mean trouble." 

"As though any storm," finished Mr. Magee 
"would not be worth the rainbow of your smile 
at the end." 

"A very fancy figure," laughed she. "But 
storms aren't nice." 

"There are a few of us," replied Magee, "who 
can be merry through the worst of them because 
of the rainbow to come." 

For answer, she flattened her finely-modeled 
nose into shapelessness against the cold pane. 
Back of them in the candle-lighted room, tho mot- 
ley crew of Baldpate's winter guests stood about 
in various attitudes of waiting. In front of the 
fire the holder of the Chair of Comparative Lit- 
erature quoted poetry to Mrs. Norton, and proba- 
bly it never occurred to the old man that the wom- 
an to whom he talked was that nightmare of his 



THE MAYOR BEGINS A VIGIL 137 

life — a peroxide blonde. Ten feet away in the 
flickering half-light, the immense bulk of the 
mayor of Reuton reposed on the arm of a leather 
couch, and before him stood his lithe unpleasant 
companion, Lou Max, side by side with Mr. 
Bland, whose talk of haberdashery was forever 
stilled. The candles sputtered, the storm angrily 
rattled the windows ; Mr. Peters flitted like a hairy 
wraith about the table. So the strange game that 
was being played at Baldpate Inn followed the 
example of good digestion and waited on appe- 
tite. 

What Mr. Magee flippantly termed his dinner 
party was seated at last, and there began a meal 
destined to linger long in the memories of those 
'who partook if it. Puzzled beyond words, the 
'host took stock of his guests. Opposite him, at 
the foot of the table, he could see the lined tired 
'face of Mrs. Norton, dazed, uncomprehending, a 
little frightened. At his right the great red acre- 
age of Cargan's face held defiance and some 
amusement; beside it sneered the cruel face of 
Max; beyond that Mr. Bland's countenance told a 
story of worry and impotent anger. And on Mr. 



138 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Magee's left sat the professor, bearded, specta- 
cled, calm, seemingly undisturbed by this queer 
flurry of events, beside the fair girl of the station 
who trusted Magee at last. In the first few mo- 1 
ments of silence Mr. Magee compared her deli- 
cate features with the coarse knowing face of the 
woman at the table's foot, and inwardly answered 

"No." 

Without the genial complement of talk the din- 
ner began. Mr. Peters appeared with another 
variety of his canned soup, whereupon the silence 
was broken by the gastronomic endeavors of Mr. 
Max and the mayor. Mr. Magee was reflecting 
that conversation must be encouraged, when Car- 
gan suddenly spoke. 

"I hope I ain't putting you folks out none," he 
remarked with obvious sarcasm. "It ain't my 
habit to drop in unexpected like this. But busi- 
ness — " 

"We're delighted, I'm sure," said Mr. Magee 

politely. 

"I suppose you want to know why I'm here," 
the mayor went on. "Well — ■' he hesitated — • 
"it's like this—" 



THE MAYOR BEGINS A VIGIL 139 

"Dear Mr. Cargan/' Magee broke in, "spare us, 
I pray. And spare yourself. We have had ex- 
planations until we are weary. We have decided 
to drop them altogether, and just to take it for 
granted that, in the words of the song, we're here 
because we're here." 

"All right," replied Cargan, evidently relieved. 
"That suits me. I'm tired explaining, anyhow. 
There's a bunch of reformers rose up lately in 
Reuton — maybe you've heard about 'em. A lovely 
bunch. A white necktie and a half-portion of 
brains apiece. They say they're going to do for 
me at the next election." 

Mr. Max laughed harshly from the vicinity of 
his soup. 

"They wrote the first joke book, them people," 
(he said. 

I "Well," went on Cargan, "there ain't nobody so 
insignificant and piffling that people won't listen 
to 'em when they attack a man in public life. So 
I've had to reply to this comic opera bunch, and 
as I say, I'm about wore out explaining. I've had 
to explain that I never stole the town I used to 
live in In Indiana, and that I didn't stick up my 



140 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

father with a knife. It gets monotonous. So I'm 
much obliged to you for passing the explanations 
up. We won't bother you long, me and Lou. I 
got a little business here, and then we'll mosey 
along. We'll clear out about nine o'clock." 

*'No," protested Magee. *'So soon ? We must 
make it pleasant for you while you stay. I al- 
ways hate hosts who talk about their servants — 
I have a friend who bores me to death because he 
has a Jap butler he believes was at Mukden. But 
I think I am justified in calling your attention to 
ours — Mr. Peters, the Hermit of Baldpate Moun- 
tain. Cooking is merely his avocation. He is 
writing a book." 

"That guy," remarked Cargan, incredulous. 

"What do you know about that?" asked Mr. 
Bland. "It certainly will get a lot of hot adver- 
tising if it ever appears. It's meant to prove that 
all the trouble in the world has been caused by 



iwoman." 



The mayor considered. 

"He's off— he's nutty, that fellow," he an- 
nounced. "It ain't women that cause all of the 
trouble." 



THE MAYOR BEGINS A VIGIL 141 

**Thank you, Mr. Cargan," said Miss Norton, 
smiling. 

"Anybody'd know it to look at you, miss," re- 
plied the mayor in his most gallant manner. Then 
he added hastily: ''And you, ma'am," with a 
nod in the other woman's direction. 

"I don't know as I got the evidence in my 
face," responded Mrs. Norton easily, "but women 
don't make no trouble, I know that. I think the 
man's crazy^ myself, and I'd tell him so if he 
wasn't the cook." She paused, for Peters had 
entered the room. There was silence while he 
changed the courses. "It's getting so now you 
can't say the things to a cook you can to a king," 
she finished, after the hermit had retired. 

"Ahem — Mr. Cargan," put in Professor Bol- 
ton, "you give it as your opinion that woman is no 
trouble-maker, and I must admit that I agree with 
your premise in general, although occasionally she 
may cause a — a slight annoyance. Undeniably, 
there is a lot of trouble in the world. To whose 
efforts do you ascribe it?" 

The mayor ran his thick fingers through his 
hair. 



142 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

**I got you," he said, "and I got your answer, 
too. Who makes the trouble? Who's made it 
from the beginning of time? The reformers, Doc. 
Yes, sir. Who was the first reformer? The snake 
in the garden of Eden. This hermit guy proba- 
bly has that affair laid down at woman's door. 
Not much. Everything was running all right 
around the garden, and then the snake came along. 
It's a twenty to one shot he'd just finished a series 
of articles on The Shame of Eden' for a maga- 
zine. *What d'ye mean?' he says to the woman, 
'by letting well enough alone? Things are all 
wrong here. The present administration is run- 
ning everything into the ground. I can tell you a 
few things that will open your eyes. What's that? 
What you don't know won't hurt you ? The old 
cry', he says, *the old cry against which progres- 
sives got to fight,"' he says. 'Wake up. You need 
a change here. Try this nice red apple, and you'll 
see things the way I do.' And the woman fell for 
it. You know what happened." 

"An original point of view," said the dazed 
professor. 

"Yes, Doc," went on Mr. Cargan, evidently on 



THE MAYOR BEGINS A VIGIL 143' 

a favorite topic, "it's the reformers that have 
caused all the trouble, from that snake down. 
Things are running smooth, folks all prosperous 
and satisfied — then they come along in their gum', 
shoes and white neckties. And they knock away 
at the existing order until the public begins to be- 
lieve 'em and gives 'em a chance to run things. 
What's the result ? The world's in a worse tangle 
than ever before." 

"You feel deeply on the subject, Mr . /argan," 
remarked Magee. 

"I ought to," the mayor replied. "I ain't no 
writer, but if I was, I'd turn out a book that 
would drive this whiskered hermit's argument to 
the wall. Woman — ^bah! The only way women 
make trouble is by falling for the reform gag." 

Mr. Peters here interrupted with the dessert, 
|and through that course Mr. Cargan elaborated 
on his theory. He pointed out how, in many 
states, reform had interrupted the smooth flow of 
life, set everything awhirl, and cruelly sent "the 
boys" who had always been faithful out into the 
cold world seeking the stranger, work. While he 
talked, the eyes of Lou Max looked out at him 



144 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

from behind the incongruous gold-rimmed glass- 
es, with the devotion of the dog to its master 
clearly written in them. Mr. Magee had read 
many articles about this picturesque Cargan who 
had fought his way with his fists to the position 
of practical dictator in the city of Reuton. The 
story was seldom told without a mention of his 
man Max — ^Lou Max who kept the south end 
of Reuton in line for the mayor, and in that low 
neighborhood of dives and squalor made Car- 
gan's a name to conjure with. Watching him 
now, Mr. Magee marveled at this cheap crea- 
ture's evident capacity for loyalty. 

"It was the reformers got Napoleon," the 
mayor finished. "Yes, they sent Napoleon to an 
island at the end. And him without an equal 
since the world began." 

*Ts your — begging your pardon — is your his- 
tory just straight?" demurred Professor Bolton 
timidly. 

"Is it?" frowned Cargan. "You can bet it is. I 
know Napoleon from the cradle to the grave. I 
ain't an educated man, Doc — I can hire all the 



THE MAYOR £>iiGINS A VIGIL 145 

educated men I want for eighteen dollars a week 
— but I'm up on Bonaparte." 

"It seems to me," Miss Norton put in, "I have 
heard — did I read it in a paper? — ^that a picture 
of Napoleon hangs above your desk. They say 
that you see in your own career, a similarity to 
his. May I ask — is it true ?" 

"No, miss," replied Cargan. "That's a joking 
story some newspaper guy wrote up. It ain't got 
no more truth in it than most newspaper yarns. 
No, I ain't no Napoleon. There's lots of differ- 
ences between us — one in particular." He raised 
his voice, and glared at the company around the 
table. "One in particular. The reformers got 
Napoleon at the end." 

"But the end is not yet," suggested Mr. Magee, 
smiling. 

Mr. Cargan gave him a sudden and interested 
look. 

'] "I ain't worrying," he replied. "And don't 
you, young fellow." 

Mr. Magee responded that he was not one to 
indulge in needless worry, and a silence fell upon 



146 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

the group. Peters entered with coffee, and was 
engaged in pouring it when Mr. Bland started up 
wildly from the table with an expression of alarm 
on his face. 

"What's that ?" he cried. 

The others looked at him in wonder. 

"I heard steps up-stairs," he declared. 

"Nonsense," said Mr. Cargan, "you're dream- 
ing. This peace and quiet has got to you, Bland." 

Without replying, Mr. Bland rose and ran up 
the stair. In his absence the Hermit of Baldpate 
spoke into Magee's ear. 

"I ain't one to complain," he said ; "livin' alone 
as much as I do I've sort of got out of the habit, 
having nobody to complain to. But if folks keep 
coming and coming to this hotel, I've got to re- 
Isign as cook. Seems as though every few min- 
utes there's a new face at the table, and it's a 
vital matter to me." 

"Cheer up, Peters," whispered Mr. Magee. 
"There are only two more keys to the inn. There 
will be a limit to our guests." 

"What I'm getting at is," replied Mr. Peters, 
"there's a limit to my endurance." 



THE MAYOR BEGINS A VIGIL 147 

Mr. Bland came down-stairs. His face was 
very pale as he took his seat, but in reply to Car- 
,gan's question he remarked that he must have 
been mistaken. 

"It was the wind, I guess," he said. 

The mayor made facetious comment on Mr. 
Bland's "skittishness", and Mr. Max also in- 
dulged in a gibe or two. These the haberdasher 
met with a wan smile. So the dinner came to an 
end, and the guests of Baldpate sat about while 
Mr. Peters removed all traces of it from the table. 
Mr. Magee sought to talk to Miss Norton, but 
found her nervous and distrait. 

"Has Mr. Bland frightened you?" he asked. 

She shook her head. "I have other things to 
think of," she replied. 

Mr. Peters shortly bade the company good-by 
for the night, with the warmly expressed hope in 
Mr. Magee's ear that there would be no further 
additions to the circle in the near future. When 
he had started off through the snow for his shack, 
Mr. Cargan took out his watch. 

"You've been pretty kind to us poor wanderers 
already," he said. "I got one more favor to ask. 



148 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

I come up here to see Mr. Bland. We got some 
business to transact, and we'd consider it a great 
kindness if you was to leave us alone here in the 
office." 

Mr. Magee hesitated. He saw the girl nod her 
iiead slightly, and move toward the stairs. 

"Certainly, if you wish,'' he said. "I hope you 
won't go without saying good-by, Mr. Cargan." 

"That all depends," replied the mayor. "I've 
enjoyed knowing you, one and all. Good night." 

The women, the professor and Mr. Magee 
moved up the broad stairway. On the landing 
Mr. Magee heard the voice of Mrs. Norton, some- 
where in the darkness ahead. 

"I'm worried, dearie — real worried." 

"Hush," came the girl's voice. "Mr. Magee — 
we'll meet again — soon." 

Mr. Magee seized the professor's arm, and to- 
gether they stood in the shadows. . 

"I don't like the looks of things," came Bland's 
hoarse complaint from below. "What time is it?" 

"Seven-thirty," Cargan answered. "A good 
half-hour yet." 

"There was somebody on the second floor when 



THE MAYOR BEGINS A VIGIL 149 

I went up," Bland continued. "I saw him run 
into one of the rooms and lock the door.'* 

''I've got charge now," the mayor reassured 
him, "don't you worry." 

''There's something doing." This seemed to be 
Max's voice. 

"There sure is," laughed Cargan. *'But what 
do I care? I own young Drayton. I put him 
where he is. I ain't afraid. Let them gumshoe 
round as much as they want to. They can't touch 



me." 



<<i 



Maybe not," said Bland. "But Baldpate Inn 
ain't the grand idea it looked at first, is it?" 

"It's a hell of an idea," answered Cargan. 
"There wasn't any need of all this folderol. I 
told Hayden so. Does that phone ring?" 

"No — it'll just flash a light, when they want 
us," Bland told him. 

Mr. Magee and Professor Bolton continued 
softly up the stairs, and in answer to the former's 
invitation, the old man entered number seven and 
took a chair by the fire. 

"It is an amazing tangle," he remarked, "in 
which we are involved. I have no idea what your 



150 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

place IS in the scheme of things up here. But I as- 
sume you grasp what is going on, if I do not. I 
am not so keen of wit as I once was." 

*'If you think," answered Mr. Magee, proffering 
a cigar, "that I am in on this Httle game of *Who's 
Who', then you are vastly mistaken. As a matter 
of fact, I am as much in the dark as you are." 

The professor smiled. 

"Indeed," he said in a tone that showed his un- 
belief. "Indeed." 

He was deep in a discussion of the meters of 
the poet Chaucer when there came a knock at the 
door, and Mr. Lou Max's unpleasant head was 
thrust inside. 

"I been assigned," he said, "to sit up here in the 
hall and keep an eye out for the ghost Bland 
heard tramping about. And being of a sociable 
nature, I'd like to sit in your doorway, if you 
don't mind." 

"By all means," replied Magee. "Here's a 
chair. Do you smoke ?" 

"Thanks." Mr. Max placed the chair sidewise 
in the doorway of number seven, and sat down. 
From his place he commanded a view of Mr. Ma- 



THE MAYOR BEGINS A VIGIL 151 

gee's apartments and of the head of the stairs. 
With his yellow teeth he viciously bit the end 
from the cigar. "Don't let me interrupt the con- 
versation, gentlemen," he pleaded. 

"We were speaking," said the professor calm- 
ly, "of the versification of Chaucer. Mr. Ala- 
gee-" 

He continued his discussion in an even voice. 
Mr. Magee leaned back in his chair and smiled in 
a pleased way at the settings of the stage: Mr. 
Max in a cloud of smoke on guard at his door; the 
mayor and Mr. Bland keeping vigil by a telephone 
switchboard in the office below, watching for the 
flash of light that should tell them some one in the 
outside world wanted to speak to Baldpate Inn; 
a mysterious figure who flitted about in the dark ; 
a beautiful girl who was going to ask Mr. Magee 
to do her a service, blindly trusting her. 

The professor droned on monotonously. Once 
Mr. Magee interrupted to engage Lou Max in 
spirited conversation. For, through the squares 
. of light outside the windows, he had seen the girl 
of the station pass hurriedly down the balcony, 
the snowflakes falling white on her yellow hair. ^ 



CHAPTER VIII 

MR. MAX TELLS A TALE OF SUSPICION 

AN hour passed. Mr. Max admitted when 
^ pressed that a good cigar soothed the 
soul, and accepted another from Magee's stock. 
The professor continued to talk. Obviously it 
was his favorite diversion. He seemed to be quot- 
ing from addresses; Mr. Magee pictured him on 
a Chautauqua platform, the white water pitcher 
by his side. 

As he talked, Mr. Magee studied that portion 
of his delicate scholarly face that the beard left 
exposed to the world. What part had Thaddeus 
Bolton, holder of the Crandall Chair of Compara- 
tive Literature, in this network of odd alarms? 
Why was he at Baldpate? And why was he so 
little moved by the rapid changes in the make-up 
of the inn colony — changes that left Mr. Magee 
gasping? He took them as calmly as he would 

152 



A TALE OF SUSPICION 153 

take his grapefruit at the breakfast-table. Only 
that morning Mr. Magee, by way of experiment, 
had fastened upon him the suspicion of murder, 
and the old man had not flickered an eyelash. Not 
the least strange of all the strange figures that 
floated about Baldpate, Mr. Magee reflected^ was 
this man who fiddled now with Chaucer while, 
metaphorically, Rome burned. He could not make 
it out. 

Mr. Max inserted a loud yawn into the profes- 
sor's discourse. 

*'Once I played chess with a German," he said, 
*'and another time I went to a lecture on purifying 
politics, but I never struck anything so monoto- 
nous as this job I got now." 

"So sorry," replied Magee, "that our company; 
bores you." 

"No offense," remarked the yellow-faced one. 
"I was just thinking as I set here how it all comes 
of people being suspicious of one another. Now 
I've always held that the world would be a better 
place if there wasn't no suspicion in it. Nine times 
out of ten the suspicion ain't got a leg to stand 
on — if suspicion can be said to have a leg." 



154 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Evidently Mr. Max desired the floor ; gracious- 
ly Professor Bolton conceded it to him. 

**Speaking of suspicion/' continued the drab 
little man on the threshold, turning his cigar 
thoughtfully between his thin lips, "reminds me 
of a case told me by Pueblo Sam, a few years ago. 
In some ways it's real funny, and in others it's 
sad as hell. Pueblo Sam was called in them terms 
because he'd never been west of Sixth Avenue. 
He was a swell refined gentleman who lived by 
his wits, and he had considerable." 

"A confidence man," suggested Magee. 

"Something along that order," admitted Mr. 
Max, "but a good sport among his friends, you 
understand. Well, this case of suspicion Sam tells 
me about happened something like this. One 
scorching hot day in summer Sam gets aboard 
the Coney boat, his idea being to put all business 
cares away for an hour or two, and just float calm 
and peaceful down the bay, and cool off. So he 
grabs out a camp chair and hustles through the 
crowd up to the top deck, beside the pilot's hang- 
out, and sits down to get acquainted with the 
breeze, if such there was. 



A TALE OF SUSPICION 155 

"Well, he'd been sitting there about ten min- 
utes, Sam tells me, when along came about the 
easiest picking that ever got loose from the old 
homestead — " 

"I beg your pardon," protested Professor Bol- 
ton. 

"The ready money, the loosened kale, the posies 
in the garden waiting to be plucked," elucidated 
Mr. Max. "This guy, Sam says, was such a per- 
fect rube he just naturally looked past him to see 
if there was a trail of wisps of hay on the floor. 
For a while Sam sits there with a grouch as he 
thought how hard it was to put business aside and 
get a little rest now and then, and debating 
whether, being on a vacation, as it was, he'd exert 
himself enough to stretch forth his hand and take 
whatever money the guy had. While he was argu-^ 
ing the matter with himself, the jay settled the 
question by coming over and sitting down near 
him. 

"He's in the city, he tells Sam, to enjoy the 
moving pictures of the streets, and otherwise for- 
get the trees back home that grow the cherries in 
the bottom pf the cocktail glasses. *And believe 



156 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

me/ he says to Sam, 'there ain't none of tht>se 
confidence men going to get me. I'm too wise,' he 
says. 

" I'll bet money you are/ Sam tells him laugh- 
ing all over at the fish that was fighting to g^t into 
the net. 

" 'Yes, siree/ says the last of the Mohicans, 
'they can't fool me. I can tell them as fur away 
as I can see 'em, and my eyesight's perfect. One 
of 'em comes up to me in City Hall park and tries 
to sell me some mining stock. I guess he ain't re- 
covered yet from what I said to him. I tell yotu 
they can't fool Mark Dennen,' says the guy. 

"Sam told me that at them words he just leaned 
back in his seat and stared at the jay and whistled 
under his breath. Years ago, it seemed, Sam had 
lived in the town of Readsboro, Vermont, and run 
up and down the streets with one suspender and a 
stone bruise, and the kid that had run with him 
was Mark Dennen. And Sam says he looked at 
this guy from the woods that was running round 
crying to high heaven he needed a guardian, and 
he sees that sure enough it was the tow-head Mark 
Dennen and — Sam told me — something seemed 



A TALE OF SUSPICION 157 

lo bust inside him, and he wanted to stretch out 
his arms and hug this guy. 

" *Mark Dennen/ shouts Sam, 'as I live. Of 
Readsboro, Vermont. The kid I used to play with' 
under the arc Hghts — don't you remember me?'" 

"But Sam says the guy just looked him straight 
in the eye, and shut his jaw, and says : T suppose 
you'll be asking after my brother George next?' 

" *You ain't got any brother George, you idiot,' 
laughs Sam. He told me he was thinking how 
he'd treat his old friend Mark to a dinner that 
would go down in history in Readsboro. 'Mark, 
you pld rascal,' he says, 'don't you remember me 
— don't you remember little Sam Burns that used 
to play andy-over with you, and that stole your 
girl in 1892 ? Don't you remember the old days in 
Readsboro ?' He was all het up by this time, Sam 
tells me, and all the old m.emories came creeping 
back, and he kept thinking he never was so glad 
to run across anybody in his life. *You remember 
little Sam Burns, don't you?' he asks once more. 

"But this guy just looks back into Sam's eye, 
with his own cold as steel, and he says, says he : 
*You're pretty clever, mister, but you don't fool 



158 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

me. No, you don't come any games on Mark 
Dennen.' 

, " 'But, Mark,' says Sam, 'I swear to you by all 
that's holy that I'm that kid — I'm Sam Burns. 
What proof do you want ? Do you remember old 
Ed Haywood that used to keep the drug store 
right across from the post-office? The guy that 
never washed his windows ? I do. And Miss Hunt- 
er that taught the sixth grade school when we went 
there — a little woman with washed-out gray eyes 
and a broken front tooth ? And that pretty little 
girl, Sarah somebody — wait a minute, I'll get it or 
bust — Sarah — Sarah — Sarah Scott, you used to 
be so sweet on ? Did you marry her, Mark ? And 
old Lafe Perkins, who used to be on hand when- 
ever there was any repairs being made anywhere 
I — rheumatism and a cane and a high squeaky 
'voice that he used to exercise giving orders about 
things that wasn't any of his business. Why, 
Mark, I remember 'em all. Good lord, man,' says 
Sam, *do you want any more proof?' 

"But this country blockhead just looked Sam 
up and down, and remarks judicious: Tt's cer- 
tainly wonderful how you know all these things. 



A TALE OF SUSPICION 159 

^Wonderful. But you can't fool me/ he says, 'yoi^ 
can't fool Mark Dennen.' " 

Mr. Max paused in his narrative for a moment. 
The sound of voices came up from the office of 
Baldpate Inn. One, that of the mayor, boomed 
loudly and angrily. In an evident desire to drown 
it, Mr. Max went on with spirit : 

"Well, gentlemen, it got to be a point of honor, 
as you might say, for Sam to convince that guy. 
He told me he never wanted anything so much in 
his life as for Mark Dennen to give in. It was a 
hot afternoon, and he'd come aboard that boat for 
a rest, but he peeled off his collar and started in. 
He gave Mark Dennen the number of bricks in 
the Methodist Church, as reported in the Reads- 
boro Citizen at the time it was built. He told him 
the name pf the piece Mark's sister recited at the 
school entertainment in the spring of 1890. He 
bounded on all four sides the lot where the cir- 
cuses played when they came to Readsboro. He 
named every citizen of the town, living or dead, 
that ever got to be known outside his own family, 
and he brought children into the world and mar- 
ried them and read the funeral service pver tliem, 



i6o SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

and still that bonehead from the woods sat there, 
his mouth open, and says: *It's beyond me how 
you know all that. You New Yorkers are slicker 
then I give ye credit for. But you can*t fool me. 
You ain't Sam Burns. Why, I went to school 
with him/ 

"They was drawing near Coney now," went on 
Mr. Max, "and Sam's face was purple and he was 
dripping with perspiration, and rattling off Reads- 
boro happenings at the rate of ten a second, but 
that Mark Dennen he sat there and wouldn't 
budge from his high horse. So they came up to 
the pier, Sam almost weeping real tears and plead- 
ing like his heart would break : *Mark, don't you 
remember that time we threw little Bill Barnaby 
into the swimming hole, and he couldn't swim a 
stroke and nearly drowned on us?' and still get- 
ting the stony face from his old pal. 

"And on the pier this Dennen held out his hand 
to Sam, who was a physical wreck and a broken 
man by this time, and says : *You sure are cute, 
mister. I'll have great times telling this in Reads- 
boro. Once you met one too smart for ye, eh? 
Much obliged for your company, anyhow !' And 



A TALE OF SUSPICION i6i 

he went away and left Sam leaning against the 
railing, with no faith in human nature no more. 
*I hope somebody got to him/ says Sam to me, 
'and got to him good. He's the kind that if you 
work right you can sell stock in a company for 
starting roof gardens on the tops of the pyramids 
in Egypt. I'd trimmed him myself,' says Sam to 
me, 'but I hadn't the heart.' " 

Mr. Max finished, and again from below came 
the sound of voices raised in anger. 

"An interesting story, Mr. Max," commented 
Professor Bolton. "I shall treasure it." 

"Told with a remarkable feeling for detail,"" 
added Mr. Magee. "In fact, it seems to me that 
only one of the two participants in it could re- 
member all the fine points so well. Mr. Max, you 
don't exactly look like Mark Dennen to me, there- 
fore — if you will pardon the liberty — " 

"I get you," replied Max sadly. "The same old 
story. Suspicion — suspicion everywhere. It does 
a lot of harm, believe me. I wouldn't — " 

He jumped from his chair and disappeared, for 
the voice of Cargan had hailed him from below. 
Mr. Magee and the professor with one accord f ol- 



162 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

lowed. Hiding in the friendly shadows of the 
landing once again, the}?" heard the loud tones of 
the mayor's booming voice, and the softer tones 
of Bland's. 

*'How about this ?" bellowed the mayor. "Hay- 
den's squealed. Phones to Bland — -not to me. 
Whines about the courts — I don't know what rot. 
He's squealed. He didn't phone the combination." 

"The rat !" screamed Mr. Max. 

"By the Lord Harry," said the mayor, "I'll 
have it open, anyhow. I've earned what's in 
there, fair and — I've earned it. I'm going to 
have it. Max." 

"See here, Cargan — " put in Mr. Bland. 

"Keep out of the way, you," cried Cargan. 
"And put away that pop-gun before you get hurt. 
I'm going to have what's mine by justice. That 
safe comes open to-night. Max, get your satchel." 

Mr. Magee and the professor turned and as- 
cended to the second floor. In front of number 
seven they paused and looked into each other's 
eyes. Professor Bolton shrugged his shoulders. 

"I'm going to bed," he said, "and I advise you 
to do the same." 



A TALE OF SUSPICION 163 

* 
"Yes," replied Mr. Magee, but had no idea 

what he had said. As for the old man's advice, 
he had no intention pf taking it. Melodrama — - 
the thing he had come to Baldpate Inn to forget 
forever — raged through that home of solitude. 
Men spoke of guns, and swore, and threatened. 
What was it all about ? And what part could he 
play in it all ? 

He entered number seven, and paused in amaze- 
ment. Outside one of his windows Miss Norton 
stood, rapping on the glass for him to open. When 
he stood facing her at last, the window no longer 
between, he saw that her face was very pale and 
that her chin trembled as it had in the station. 

What is it?" cried Magee. 

'I mustn't come in," she answered. "Listen. 
You said you wanted to help me. You can do so 
now. I'll explain everything later — this is all I 
need tell you just at present. Down-stairs in the 
safe there's a package containing two hundred 
thousand dollars. Do you hear — two hundred 
thousand. I must have that package. Don't 
ask me why. I came here to get it — I must 
have it. The combination was to have been 



ii^ 



ci^ 



1 64 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

phoned to Cargan at eight o'clock. I was hiding 
outside the window. Something went wrong —  
they didn't phone it. He's going to open the safe 
by force. I heard him say so. I couldn't wait to 
hear more — I saw him." 
. "Who?" asked Mr. Magee. 

"I don't know — a tall black figure — hiding out- 
side a window like myself. The man with one of 
the other keys, I suppose. The man Mr. Bland 
heard walking about to-night. I saw him and I 
was terribly frightened. It's all right when you 
know who the other fellow is, but when — ^it's all 
so creepy — I was afraid. So I ran — here." 

"The thing to do," approved Mr. Magee. 
"Don't worry. I'll get the money for you. I'll 
get it if I have to slay the city administration of 
Reuton in its tracks." 

"You trust me?" asked the girl, with a little 
catch in her voice. The snow lay white on her 
hair; even in the shadows her eyes suggested 
June skies. "Without knowing who I am, or 
why I must have this money — ^you'll get it for 
me?" 

"Some people," said Mr. Magee, "meet all their 



A TALE OF SUSPICION 165 

lives long at pink little teas, and never know one 
another, while others just smile at each other 
across a station waiting-room — that's enough." 

"Fm so glad," whispered the girl. "I never 
dreamed I'd meet any one like you — up here. 
Please, oh, please, be very careful. Neither Car- 
gan nor Max is armed. Bland is. I should never 
forgive myself if you were hurt. But you won't 
be — will you?" 

"I may catch cold," laughed Mr. Magee ; "oth- 
erwise I'll be perfectly safe." He went into the 
room and put on a gay plaid cap. "Makes me 
look like Sherlock Holmes," he smiled at the girl 
framed in the window. When he turned to his 
door to lock it, he discovered that the key was 
gone and that it had been locked on the outside. 
"Oh, very well," he said flippantly. He buttoned 
his coat to the chin, blew out the candles in num- 
ber seven, and joined the girl on the balcony. 

"Go to your room," he said gently. "Your 
worries are over. I'll bring you the golden fleece 
inside an hour." 

"Be careful," she whispered. "Be very care- 
ful, Mr.— Billy." 



1 66 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Just for that/' cried Magee gaily, "I'll get 
you four hundred thousand dollars." 

He ran to the end of the balcony, and dropping 
softly to the ground, was ready for his first ex- 
periment in the gentle art of highway robbery. 



T 



CHAPTER IX 

MELODRAMA IN THE SNOW 

HE justly celebrated moon that in summer 
months shed so much glamour on the ro- 
mances of Baldpate Inn was no where in evidence 
as Mr. Magee crept along the ground close to the 
veranda. The snow sifted down upon him out 
of the blackness above; three feet ahead the 
world seemed to end. 

A corking night," he muttered humorously, 
for my debut in the hold-up business." 
He swung up over the rail on to the veranda, 
and walked softly along it until he came to a win- 
dow opening into the office. Cautiously he peered 
in. The vast lonely room was lighted by a single 
candle. At the foot of the broad stair he could 
discern a great bulk, seated on the lowest stepr, 
which he correctly took to be the mayor of Reu- 
ton. Back of the desk, on which stood the candle, 
Mr. Max's head and shoulders were visible. He 

167 



it 



1 68 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

was working industriously in the immediate vicin- 
ity of the safe door. Occasionally he consulted 
the small traveling-bag that stood on the desk. 
Many other professions had claimed Mr. Max be- 
fore his advent into Reuton politics ; evidently he 
was putting into operation the training acquired 
in one of them. Mr. Eland was nowhere in sight. 

Shivering with cold and excitement, Mr. Magee 
leaned against the side of Baldpate Inn and 
waited. Mr. Max worked eagerly, turning fre- 
quently to his bag as a physician might turn 
to his medicine-case. No word was spoken in the 
office. Minutes passed. The bulk at the foot of 
the stairs surged restlessly. Mr. Max's opera- 
tions were mostly hidden by the desk at which, 
in summer, timid old ladles inquired for their 
mail. Having time to think, Mr. Magee pictured 
the horror of those ladies could they come up to 
the desk at Baldpate now. 

Suddenly Mr. Max ran out into the center of 
the office. Almost on the instant there was a 
white puff of smoke and a roar. The inn seemed 
about to roll down the mountain after all those 
years of sticking tight. The mayor looked appre- 



MELODRAMA IN THE SNOW 1B9 

hensively up the stair behind him ; Mr. Max ran 
to the open safe door and came back before thg 
desk with a package in his hand. After examin- 
ing it hastily, Mr. Cargan placed the loot in his 
pocket. The greedy eyes of Max followed it for 
a second; then he ran over and gathered up his 
tools. Now they Vv^ere ready to depart. The 
mayor lifted the candle from the desk. Its light 
fell on a big chair by the fire, and Mr. Magee saw 
in that chair the figure of Mr. Bland, bound and 
gagged. 

Mr. Cargan and his companion paused, and ap- 
peared to address triumphant and jesting com- 
ment in Mr. Bland's direction. Then they but- 
toned their coats and, holding aloft the candle, 
disappeared through the dining-room door. 

'T must have that package." Standing on the 
balcony of Baldpate Inn, her yellow hair white 
Avith snow, her eyes shining even in shadow, thus 
had the lady of this weird drama spoken to Mn 
Magee. And gladly he had undertaken the quest. 
Now, he knew, the moment had come to act. Max 
he could quickly dispose pf, he felt; Cargan 
would require time and attention. 



170 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

He hurried round to the front door of the inn, 
and taking the big key from his pocket, unlocked 
it as a means of retreat where the men he was 
about to attack could not follow. Already he 
heard their muffled steps in the distance. Cross- 
ing the veranda, he dropped down into the snow 
by the side of the great stone steps that led to 
Baldpate Inn's chief entrance. 

He heard Cargan and Max on the veranda 
just above his head. They were speaking of trains 
to Reuton. In great good humor, evidently, they 
started down the steps. Mr. Magee crouched, re- 
solved that he would spring the moment they 
reached the ground. They were on the last step — 
now ! 

Suddenly from the other side of the steps a 
black figure rose, a fist shot out, and Mr. Max 
went spinning like a whirling dervish down the 
snowy path, to land in a heap five feet away. The 
next instant the mayor of Reuton and the black 
figure were locked in terrific conflict. Mr. Magee, 
astounded by this turn of affairs, could only stand 
and stare through the dark. 

For fifteen seconds, muttering, slipping, grap- 



MELODRAMA IN THE SNOW 171 

pllng, the two figures waltzed grotesquely about 
in the falling snow. Then the mayor's feet slid 
from under him on the treacherous white carpet, 
and the two went down together. As Mr. Magee 
swooped down upon them he saw the hand of the 
stranger find the mayor's pocket, and draw from 
it the package that had been placed there in the 
office a few moments before. 

Unfortunately for the demands of the drama in 
which he had become involved, Mr. Magee had 
never been an athlete at the university. But he 
was a young man of average strength and agility, 
and he had the advantage of landing most unex- 
pectedly on his antagonist. Before that gentle- 
man realized what had happened, Magee had 
wrenched the package from his hand, thrown him 
back on the prostrate form of the highest official 
pf Reuton, and fled up the steps. Quickly the 
stranger regained his feet and started in pursuit, 
but he arrived at the great front door of Baldpate 
Inn just in time to hear the lock cHck inside. 

Safe for the moment behind a locked door, Mr. 
Magee paused to get his breath. The glory of 
battle filled his soul. It was not until long after- 



172 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

ward that he realized the battle had been a mere 
scuffle in the dark. He felt his cheeks burn with 
excitement like a sweet girl graduate's — the 
cheeks of a man who had always prided himself 
he was the unmoved cynic in any situation. 

With no thought for Mr. Bland, bound in his 
uneasy chair, Mr. Magee hurried up the broad 
staircase of Baldpete. Now came the most gor- 
geous scene of all. A fair-haired lady; a knight 
she had sent forth to battle ; the knight returned. 
"You asked me to bring you this, my lady." Busi- 
ness of surprise and joy on the lady's part — busi- 
ness also, perhaps, of adoration for the knight. 

At the right of the stairs lay seventeen and the 
lady, at the left a supposedly uninhabited land. 
As Mr. Magee reached the second floor, blithely 
picturing the scene in which he was to play so sat- 
isfactory a part — he paused. For half-way down 
the corridor to the left an open door threw a faint 
light into the hall, and in that light stood a woman 
he had never seen before. In this order came Mr. 
Magee's impressions of her, fur-coated, tall, dark, 
handsome, with the haughty manner of one en- 
gaging a chauffeur. 



MELODRAMA IN THE SNOW 173 

"I beg your pardon," she said, "but are you by 
any chance Mr. Magee ?" 

The knight leaned weakly against the wall, and 
tried to think. 

"I — I am," he managed to say. 

"I'm so glad I've found you," replied the girl 
It seemed to the dazed Magee that her dark eyes 
were not overly happy. *T can not ask you in, I'm 
afraid. I do not know the custom on such an oc- 
casion — does anybody ? I am alone with my maid. 
Hal Bentley, when I wrote to him for a key to 
this place, told me of your being here, and said 
that I was to put myself under your protection." 

Mr. Magee arranged a bow, most of which was 
lost in the dark. 

"Delighted, I'm sure," he murmured. 

"I shall try not to impose on you," she went on. 
"The whole affair Is so unusual as to be almost 
absurd. But Mr. Bentley said that you were — 
very kind. He said I might trust you. I am in 
great trouble. I have come here to get something 
< — and I haven't the least idea how to proceed. I 
came because I must have it — so much depends 
on it." 



174 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Prophetically Mr. Magee clutched in his pocket 
the package for which he had done battle. 

"I may be too late." The girl's eyes grew wide. 
"That would be terribly unfortunate. I do not 
wish you to be injured serving me — " She low- 
ered her voice. "But if there is any way in which 
you can help me in — in this difficulty — I can 
never be grateful enough. Down-stairs in the safe 
there is, I believe, a package containing a large 
sum of money." 

Mr. Magee's hand closed convulsively in his 
pocket 

"If there is any way possible," said the girl, "I 
must obtain that package. I give you my word I 
have as much right to it as any one who will ap- 
pear at the inn. The honor and happiness of one 
who is very dear to me is involved. I ask you — 
made bold as I am by my desperation and Hal 
Bentley's assurances — ^to aid me if you find you 
can." 

With the eyes of a man in a dream Mr. Magee 
looked into the face of the latest comer to Bald- 
pate. 

"Hal Bently is an old friend and a bully chap," 



MELODRAMA IN THE SNOW 175 

he said. "It will be a great pleasure to serve a 
friend of his." He paused, congratulating him- 
self that these were words, idle words. "When 
did you arrive, may I ask?" 

"I believe you were having dinner when I 
came," she answered. "Mr. Bentley gave me a 
key to the kitchen door, and we found a back 
stairway. There seemed to be a company below 
— I wanted to see only you." 

"I repeat," said Mr. Magee, "I shall be happy 
to help you, if I can." His word to another lady, 
he reflected, was binding. "I suggest that there 
is no harm in waiting until morning." 

"But — I am afraid it was to-night — " she be- 
gan. 

"I understand," Magee replied. "The plans 
went wrong. You may safely let your worries 
rest until to-morrow." He was on the point of 
adding something about relying on him, but re- 
membered in time which girl he was addressing., 
"Is there anything I can do to make you more 
comfortable?" ^ 

The girl drew the fur coat closer about her 
shoulders. She suggested to Magee a sheltered 



176 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

luxurious life — ^he could see her regaling young 
men with tea before a fireplace in a beautiful 
room — insipid tea in thimble-like cups. 

"You are very kind," she said. "I hardly ex- 
pected to be here the night through. It is rather 
cold, but I am sure we have rugs and coats 
enough/' 

Mr. Magee's duty was clear. 

"I'll build you a fire," he announced. The girl 
seemed distressed at the thought. 

"No, I couldn't let you," she said. "I am sure 
it isn't necessary. I will say good night now." 
'Good night. If there is anything I can do — " 

'I shall tell you," she finished, smiling. "I be- 
lieve I forgot to give you my name. I am Myra 
Thornhill, of Reuton. Until to-morrow." She 
went in and closed the door. 

Mr. Magee sat limply down on the cold stair. 
All the glory was gone from the scene he had pic- 
tured a moment ago. He had the m.oney, yes, the 
.money procured in valiant battle, but at the mo- 
ment he bore the prize to his lady, another ap- 
peared from the dark to claim it. What should 
he do? 



a, 



«l 



MELODRAMA IN THE SNOW 177 

He got up and started for number seventeen. 
The girl who waited there was very charming and 
attractive — but what did he know about her? 
What did she want with this money ? He paused. 
This other girl came from Hal Bentley, a friend 
of friends. And she claimed to have every right 
to this precious package. What were her exact 
words ? 

Why not wait until morning? Perhaps, in the 
cold gray dawn, he would see more clearly his way 
through this preposterous tangle. Anyhow, it 
would be dangerous to give into any woman's 
keeping just then a package so earnestly sought by 
desperate men. Yes, he would wait until morn- 
ing. That was the only reasonable course. 

Reasonable? That was the word he used. A 
knight prating of the reasonable ! 

Mr. Magee unlocked the door of number seven 
and entered. Lighting his candles and prodding 
the fire, he composed a note to the waiting girl in 
seventeen : 

"Everything all right. Sleep peacefully. I am 
on the job. Will see you to-morrow. Mr.— 
Billy." 



178 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Slipping this message under her door, the ex- 
knight hurried away to avoid an interview, and 
sat down in his chair before the fire. 

"I must think," he muttered. "I must get thisi^ 
thing straight/' 

For an hour he pondered, threshing out as best 
he could this mysterious game in which he played 
a leading part unequipped with a book of rules. 
He went back to the very beginning — even to the 
station at Upper Asquewan Falls where the unde- 
niable charm of the first of these girls had won 
him completely. He reviewed the arrival of 
Bland and his babble of haberdashery, of Pro- 
fessor Bolton and his weird tale of peroxide 
blondes and suffragettes, of Miss Norton and her 
impossible mother, of Cargan, hater of reform- 
ers, and Lou Max, foe of suspicion. He thought 
of the figure in the dark at the foot of the steps 
that had fought so savagely for the package now 
in his own pocket — of the girl who had pleaded 
so convincingly on the balcony for his help — of 
the colder, more sophisticated woman who came 
with Hal Bentley's authority to ask of him the 



MELODRAMA IN THE SNOW 179 

same favor. Myra Thornhlll ? He had heard the 
name, surely. But where ? 

Mr. Magee's thoughts went back to New York. 
He wondered what they would say if they could 
see him now, whirling about in a queer romance 
not of his own writing — he who had come to 
Baldpate Inn to get away from mere romancing 
and look into men's hearts, a philosopher. He 
laughed out loud. 

"To-morrow is another day," he reflected. 'TU 
solve this whole thing then. They can't go on 
playing without me — I've got the ball." 

He took the package from his pocket. Its seals 

had already been broken. Untying the strings, he 

began carefully to unwrap the paper — the thick 

yellow banking manila, and then the oiled inner 

wrapping. So finally he opened up the solid mass 

of — what? He looked closer. Crisp, beautiful, 

one thousand dollar bills. Whew ! He had never 

seen a bill of this size before. And here were two 
« 

hundred of them. 

He wrapped the package up once more, and pre- 
pared for bed. Just as he was about to retire, he 



i8o SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

remembered Mr. Bland, bound and gagged below. 
He went into the hall with the idea of releasing 
the unlucky haberdasher, but from the office rose 
the voices of the mayor, Max, and Bland himself. 
Peace, evidently, had been declared between them. 
Mr. Magee returned to number seven, locked all 
the windows, placed the much-sought package be- 
neath his pillow, and after a half-hour of puzzling 
and tossing, fell asleep. 

It was still quite dark when he awoke with a 
start. In the blaclcness he could make out a fig- 
ure standing by the side of his bed. He put his 
hand quickly beneath his pillow ; the package was 
still there. 

"What do you want?" he asked, sitting up in 
bed. 

For answer, the intruder sprang through the 
door and disappeared in the darkness of the outer 
room. Mr. Magee followed. One of his win- 
dows slammed back and forth in the wind. Slip- 
ping on a dressing-gown and lighting a candle, he 
made an investigation. The glass above the lock 
had been broken. Outside, in the snow on the bal- 
cony, were recent footprints. 



MELODRAMA IN THE SNOW i8i 

Sleepily Mr. Magee procured the precious pack- 
age and put it in the pocket of his gown. Then 
drawing on his shoes, he added a greatcoat to 
his equipment, took a candle, and went out on to 
the balcony. 

The storm had increased ; the snow flurried and 
blustered; the windows of Baldpate Inn rattled 
wildly all about. It was difficult to keep the can- 
dle burning in that wind. Mr. Magee followed 
the footprints along the east side of the inn to the 
corner, then along the more sheltered rear, and 
finally to the west side. On the west was a rather 
unlovely annex to the main building, which in- 
creasing patronage had made necessary. It was 
connected with the inn by a covered passageway 
from the second floor balcony. At the entrance 
to this passageway the footprints stopped. 

Entering the dark passageway, Mr. Magee 
made his way to the door of the annex. He tried 
j'it. It was locked. But as he turned away, he 
heard voices on the other side. 

Mr. Magee had barely enough time to extin- 
guish his candle and slip into the shadows of the 
corner. The door of the annex opened. A man 



i82 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

stepped out into the passageway. He stood there. 
The Hght from a candle held by some one in the 
doorway whom Mr. Magee could not see fell full, 
upon his face — the bespectacled wise face of Pro- 
fessor Thaddeus Bolton. 

^'Better luck next time," said the professor. 

"Keep an eye pn him," said the voice from in- 
side. "If he tries to leave the inn there'll be a 
big row. We must be in on it — and win." 

"I imagine," said Professor Bolton, smiling his 
academic smile, "that the inmates of Baldpate 
will make to-morrow a rather interesting day for 



urn." 



"It will be an interesting day for every one," 
answered the voice. 

"If I should manage to secure the package, by 
any chance," the professor went on, "I shall un- 
doubtedly need your help in getting away with it. ' 
Let us arrange a signal. Should a windov/ of my 
room be open at any time to-morrow, you will» 
know the money is in my hands." 

"Very good," replied the other. "Good night — • 
and good luck." 

"The same to you," answered Professor Bolr 



MELODRAMA IN THE SNOW 183 

ton. The door was closed, and the old man 
moved off down the passageway. 

After him crept Mr. Magee. He followed the 
professor to the east balcony, and saw him pause 
at the open window of number seven. There the 
old man looked slyly about, as though in doubt. 
He peered into the room, and one foot was across 
the sill when Mr. Magee came up and touched 
him on the arm. 

Professor Bolton leaped in evident fright out 
upon the balcony. 

*Tt's — it's a wonderful night," he said, "I 
was out for a little walk on the balcony, enjoying 
it. Seeing your open window, I was afraid — " 

"The night you speak so highly of," replied 
Mr. Magee, "is at your left. You have lost your 
iway. Good night. Professor." 

He stepped inside and closed the window. Then 
he pulled down the curtains in both room.s of his 
suite, and spent some time exploring. Finally 
he paused before the fireplace, and with the aid 
of a knife unloosed a brick. Under this he placed 
the package of money, removing the traces of 
his act as best he could. 



i84 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Now," he said, standing up, "Fm a regular 
hermit with a buried treasure, as per all hermit 
specifications. To-morrow I'm going to hand my 
treasure to somebody — it's too much for a man 
who came up here to escape the excitement and 
melodrama of the world." 

He looked at his watch. It was past three 
o'clock. Entering the inner room, for the second 
time that night he sought to sleep. "They can't 
play without me — I've got the ball," he repeated 
with a smile. And, safe in this thought, he closed 
his eyes, and slumbered. 



CHAPTER X 

THE COLD GRAY DAWN 

THE gayest knight must have a morning af- 
ter. Mr. Magee awakened to his to find 
suite seven wrapped again in its favorite polar 
atmosphere. FilHng the door leading to the outer 
room, he beheld the cause of his awakening — the 
mayor of Reuton. Mr. Cargan regarded him with 
the cold steely eye of a Disraeli in action, but 
when he spoke he opened the jaws of a cocktail 
mixer. 

"Well, young fellow," he remarked, "it seems 
to me it was time you got up and faced the re- 
sponsibilities of the day. First of which, I may 
mention, is a little talk with me." 

He stepped into the room, and through the 
doorway he vacated Mr. Max came slinking. 
The unlovely face of the foe of suspicion was 
badly bruised, and he looked upon the world with 

185 



i86 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

no cheerful eye. Pushing aside one of the frail 
bedroom chairs as untrustworthy, the mayor sat 
down on the edge of Mr. Magee's bed. It creaked 

i. 

m protest. 

"You used us pretty rough last night in the 
snow," Cargan went on. "That's why I ain't dis- 
posed to go in for kid g!oves and diplomacy this 
morning. It's my experience that when you're 
dealing with a man who's got the good old Irish 
name of Magee, it's best to hit first and debate 
afterward." 

"I — I used you roughly, Mr. Cargan?" said 
Magee. 

"No debate, mind you," protested the mayor. 
"Lou and me are making this morning call to in- 
quire after a little package that went astray some- 
where last night. There's two courses open to 
you — hand over the package or let us take it. 
I'll give you a tip — the first is the best. If we 
have to take it, we might get real rough in our ac- 
tions." 

Mr. Max slipped closer to the bed, an ugly look 
on his face. The mayor glared fixedly into Ma- 
gee's eyes. The knight who fought for fair ladies 



THE COLD GRAY DAWN 187 

In the snow lay on his pillow and considered 
briefly. 

"I get what I go after," remarked Cargan em- 
phatically. 

"Yes," sparred Magee, "but the real point is 
keeping what you get after you've gone after it. 
You didn't make much of an impression on me 
last night in that line, Mr. Cargan." 

"I never cared much for humor," replied the 
mayor, "especially at this early hour of the morn- 
ing." 

"And I hate a fresh guy," put in Max, "like 
poison." 

"I'm not fresh," Mr. Magee smiled, "I'm stat- 
ing facts. You say you've come for that pack- 
age. All right — but you've come to the wrong 
room. I haven't got it." 

"The hell you haven't," roared the mayor. 
"Lou, look about a bit." 

"Look about all you like," agreed Magee. "You 
won't find it. Mr. Cargan, I admit that I laid 
for you last night. I saw you open the safe ac- 
cording to the latest approved methods, and I saw 
you come forth with a package of money. But I 



i88 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

wasn't rough with you. I might have been, to be 
frank, but somebody beat me to it." 

"Who?" 

"The man with the seventh key, I suppose. 
The man Bland heard walking about last night 
when we were at dinner. Don't tell me you didn't 
see him in that mix-up at the foot of the steps?" 

"Well — I did think there was another guy," 
the mayor answered, "but Lou said I was crazy." 

"Lou does you an injustice. There was an- 
other guy, and if you are anxious to recover your 
precious package, I advise you to wake him up 
to the responsibilities of the day, not me." 

The mayor considered. Mr. Max, who had 
hastily made the rounds of the three rooms, came 
back with empty hands. 

"Well," said the mayor, "I might as well admit 
it. I'm up in the air. I don't know just at this 
minute where to get off. But that state of 
affairs don't last long with me, young fellow. 
I'll go to the bottom of this before the day 
is out, believe me. And if I can't do anything 
else, I'll take you back to Reuton myself and 
throw you in jail for robbery." 



THE COLD GRAY DAWN 189 

"I wouldn^t do that," smiled Magee. "Think 
of the awful job of explaining to the white neck- 
tie crowd how you happened to be dynamiting a 
safe on Baldpate Mountain at midnight.'^ 

"Oh, I guess I can get around that," said the 
mayor. "That money belongs to a friend of mine 
— Andy Rutter. I happen to go to the inn for 
a little rest, and I grab you dynamiting the safe. 
I'll keep an eye on you to-day, Mr. Magee. And 
let me tell you now that if I catch you or any of 
the bunch that's with you trying to make a get- 
away from Baldpate, there's going to be a war 
break out." 

"I don't know about the other hermits," 
laughed Magee, "but personally, I expect to be 
here for several weeks to come. Wl^ew ! It's cold 
in here. Where's the hermit? Why hasn't he 
been up to fix my fire?" 

"Yes, where is he?" repeated Mr. Cargan. 
"That's what everybody'd like to know. He 
hasn't showed up. Not a sign of breakfast, and 
me as hollow as a reformer's victory." 

"He's backslid," cried Magee. 

"The quitter," sneered Max. "It's only a 



190 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

quitter would live on the mountain in a shack, 
anyhow." 

"You're rather hard on poor old Peters/' re- 
1 marked Magee, "but when I think that I have 
to get up and dress in a refrigerating plant — I 
can't say I blame you. If only the fire were 
lighted—" 

He smiled his most ingratiating smile on his 
companion. 

"By the way, Mr. Cargan, you're up and 
dressed. I've read a lot of magazine articles 
about you, and they one and all agree that you're 
a good fellow. You'll find kindling and paper 
beside the hearth." 

"What!" The mayor's roar seemed to shake 
the windows. "Young man, with a nerve like 
yours, you could wheedle the price of a battle- 
ship from Carnegie. I — I — " He stood for a 
moment gazing almost in awe at Magee. Then 
he burst forth into a whole-souled laugh. "I am 
a good fellow," he said. "I'll show you." 

He went into the other room, and despite the 
horrified protests of Lou Max, busied himself 
amid the ashes of the fireplace. When he had 



THE COLD GRAY DAWN 191 

a blaze under way, Mr. Magee came shivering 
from the other room and held out his hand. 

"Mr. Cargan," he laughed, "you're a prince." 
He noted with interest that the mayor's broad 
shoes were mighty near two hundred thousand 
dollars. 

While Mr. Magee drew on his clothes, the 
mayor and Max sat thoughtfully before the fire, 
the former with his pudgy hands folded over the 
vast expanse where no breakfast reposed. Mr. 
Magee explained to them that the holder of the 
sixth key had arrived. 

"A handsome young lady," he remarked ; "her 
name is Myra Thornhill." 

"Old Henry Thornhill's daughter," reflected 
the mayor. "Well, seems I've sort of lost the 
habit of being surprised now. I tell you, Lou, 
we're breaking into the orchid division up here." 

While Mr. Magee shaved — in ice-cold water, 
another black mark against the Hermit of Bald- 
pate — he turned over in his mind the events of 
the night before. The vigil in the office, the plead- 
ing of the fair girl on the balcony, the battle by 
the steps, the sudden appearance of Miss Thorn- 



192 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

hill, the figure in his room, the conversation by 
the annex door — like a moving picture film the 
•story of that weird night unrolled itself. The film 
was not yet at an end. He had given himself the 
night to think. Soon he would stand before the 
girl of the station ; soon he must answer her ques- 
tions. What was he to do with the fortune that 
lay beneath the feet of the mayor of Reuton at 
this minute ? He hardly knew. 

He was ready to descend at last, and came into 
the parlor of his suite with greatcoat and hat. In 
reply to Mr. Cargan's unasked question, he said : 

"I'm going up the mountain presently to reason 
with our striking cook.'* 

"You ain't going to leave this inn, Magee," 
said the mayor. 

"Not even to bring back a cook. Come, Mr. 
Cargan, be reasonable. You may go with me, if 
you suspect my motives." 

They went out into the hall, and Mr. Magee 
passed down the corridor to the farther end, 
where he rapped on the door of Miss Thornhill's 
room. She appeared almost immediately, buried 
beneath furs and wraps. 



THE COLD GRAY DAWN 193 

''You must be nearly frozen," remarked Mr. 
Magee pityingly. "You and your maid come 
down to the office. I want you to meet the other 
guests." 

"I'll come," she replied. "Mr. Magee, I've a 
confession to make. I invented the maid. It 
seemed so horribly unconventional and shocking 
— I couldn't admit that I was alone. That was 
why I wouldn't let you build a fire for me." 

"Don't worry," smiled Magee. "You'll find 
we have all the conveniences up here. I'll present 
you to a chaperon shortly — a Mrs. Norton, who 
is here with her daughter. Allow me to introduce 
Mr. Cargan and Mr. Max." 

The girl bowed with a rather startled air, and 
Mr. Cargan mumbled something that had "pleas- 
ure" in it. In the office they found Professor 
Bolton and Mr. Bland sitting gloomily before the 
fireplace. 

"Got the news, Magee?" asked the haber- 
dasher. "Peters has done a disappearing act." 

It was evident to Magee that everybody looked 
upon Peters as his creature, and laid the hermit's 
sins at his door. He laughed. 



194 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"I'm going to head a search party shortly," he 
said. "Don't I detect the odor of coffee in the 
distance ?" 

"Mrs. Norton," remarked Professor Bolton 
dolefully, "has kindly consented to do what she 
can." 

The girl of the station came through the dining- 
room door. It was evident she had no share in 
the general gloom that the hermit's absence cast 
over Baldpate. Her eyes were bright with the 
glories of morning on a mountain; in their 
depths there was no room for petty annoyances. 

"Good morning," she said to Mr. Magee. "Isn't 
it bracing ? Have you been outside ? Oh, I — " 

"Miss Norton — Miss Thornhill," explained 
Magee. "Miss Thornhill has the sixth key, you 
know. She came last night without any of us 
knowing." 

With lukewarm smiles the two girls shook 
hands. Outwardly the glances they exchanged 
were nonchalant and casual, but somehow Mr. 
Magee felt that among the matters they estab- 
lished were social position, wit, cunning, guile, 
,and taste in dress. 



THE COLD GRAY DAWN 195 

"May I help with the coffee?" asked Miss 
Thornhill. 

"Only to drink it," replied the girl of the sta- 
tion. "It's all made now, you see." 

As if in proof of this, Mrs. Norton appeared in 
the dining-room door with a tray, and simulta- 
neously opened an endless monologue : 

"I don't know what you men will say to this, 
Fm sure — -nothing in the house but some coffee 
and a few crackers — not even any canned soup, 
and I thought from the way things went yester- 
day he had ten thousand cans of it at the very 
least — ^but men are all alike — what name did you 
say? — oh yes, Miss Thornhill, pleased to meet 
you, Fm sure — excuse my not shaking hands — as 
I was saying, men are all alike — Norton thought 
if he brought home a roast on Saturday night it 
ought to last the v/eek out — " 

She rattled on. Unheeding her flow of talk, 
the hermits of Baldpate Inn swallowed the coffee 
she offered. When the rather unsatisfactory sub- 
stitute for breakfast was consumed, Mr. Magee 
rose briskly. 

"Now," he said, "Fm going to run up to the 



196 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

hermit's shack and reason with him as best I can. 
I shall paint in touching colors our sad plight. If 
the man has an atom of decency — " 

"A walk on the mountain in the morning," said 
Miss Thornhill quickly. "Splendid. I — " 

"Wonderful," put in Miss Norton. "I, for one, 
can't resist. Even though I haven't been invited, 
I'm going along." She smiled sweetly. She had 
beaten the other girl by the breadth of a hair, and 
she knew it. New glories shone in her eyes. 

"Good for you !" said Magee. The evil hour of 
explanations was at hand, surely. "Run up and 
get your things." 

While Miss Norton was gone, Mr. Cargan 
and Lou Max engaged in earnest converse near 
a window. After which Mr. Max pulled on his 
overcoat. 

"I ain't been invited either," he said, "but I 
reckon I'll go along. I always wanted to see what 
a hermit lived like when he's really buckled down 
to the hermit business. And then a walk in the 
morning has always been my first rule for health. 
You don't mind, do you?" 

"Who am I," asked Magee, "that I should 



THE COLD GRAY DAWN 197 

stand between you and health? Come along, by 
all means." 

With the blue corduroy suit again complete, 
and the saucy hat perched on her blond head, 
Miss Norton ran down the stairs and received the 
news that Mr. Max also was enthralled by the 
possibilities of a walk up Baldpate. The three 
went out through the front door, and found un- 
der the snow a hint of the path that led to the 
shack of the post-card merchant. 

'Will you go ahead?" asked Magee of Max. 
'Sorry," grinned Max, "but I guess I'll bring 
up the rear." 

"Suspicion," said Mr. Magee, shaking his head, 
"has caused a lot of trouble in the world. Re- 
member the cruelty practised on Pueblo Sam." 

"I do," replied Mr. Max, "and it nearly breaks 
my heart. But there's a little matter I forgot to 
mention last night. Suspicion is all right in its 
place." 

"Where's that?" asked Mr. Magee. 

Mr. Max tapped his narrow chest. "Here," 
he said. So the three began the climb, Mr. Magee 
and the girl ahead, Mr. Max leering at their heels. 



t(^ 



id 



198 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

The snow still fell, and the picture of the world 
was painted in grays and whites. At some points 
along the way to the hermit's abode it had drifted 
deep; at others the foot-path was swept almost 
bare by the wind. For a time Mr. Max kept so 
close that the conversation of the two in the lead 
v/as necessarily of the commonplaces of the wind 
and skv and mountain. 

Covertly Mr. Magee glanced at the girl striding 
along by his side. The red flamed in her cheeks; 
her long lashes were flecked with the white of 
the snow ; her face was such a one as middle-aged 
men dream of while their fat wives read the 
evening paper's beauty hints at their side. Far 
beyond the ordinary woman was she desirable 
and pleasing. Mr. Magee told himself he had 
been a fool. For he who had fought so valiantly 
for her heart's desire at the foot of the steps had 
faltered when the time came to hand her the prize. 
Why? What place had caution in the wild 
scheme of the night before? None, surely. And 
yet he, dolt, idiot, coward, had in the moment of 
triumph turned cautious. Full confession, he de- 
cided, was the only way out. 



THE COLD GRAY DAWN 199 

Mr. Max was panting along quite ten feet be- 
hind. Over her shoulder the girl noted this ; she 
turned her questioning eyes on Magee; he felt 
that his moment had come. 

"I don't know how to begin," m.uttered the nov- 
elist whose puppets' speeches had always been so 
apt. "Last night you sent me on a sort of — quest 
for the golden fleece. I didn't know who had been 
fleeced, or what the idea was. But I fared forth, 
as they say. I got it for you — " 

The eyes of the girl glowed happily. She was 
beaming. 

"I'm so glad," she said. "But why — why didn't 
you give it to me last night ? It would have meant 
so much if you had." 

"That," replied Mr. Magee, "is what I'm com- 
ing to — very reluctantly. Did you note any spirit 
of caution in the fellow who set forth on your 
quest, and dropped over the balcony rail? You 
did not. I waited on the porch and saw Max tap 
the safe. I saw him and Cargan come out. I 
waited for them. Just as I was about to jump on 
them, somebody — the man with the seventh key, 
I guess — did it for me. There was a scuflle. I 



200 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

joined it. I emerged with the package everybody 
seems so interested in." 

*'Yes/* said the girl breathlessly. "And then — " 

"I started to bring it to you/' went on Magee, 
glancing over his shoulder at Max. "I was all 
aglow with romance, and battle, and all that sort 
of thing. I pictured the thrill of handing you 
the thing you had asked. I ran up-stairs. At the 
head of the stairs— I saw her." 

The light died in her eyes. Reproach entered 
there. 

"Yes," continued Magee, "your knight errant 
lost his nerve. He ceased to run on schedule. 
She, too, asked me for that package of money." 

"And you gave it to her," said the girl scorn- 
fully. 

"Oh, no," answered Magee quickly. "Not so 
bad as that. I simply sat down on the steps and 
thought. I got cautious. I decided to wait until 
to-day. I — I did wait." 

He paused. The girl strode on, looking straight 
ahead. Mr. Magee thought of adding that he had 
felt it might be dangerous to place a package so 



THE COLD GRAY DAWN 2or 

voraciously desired in her frail hands. He de- 
cided he'd better not, on second thought. 

"I know," he said, "what you think. I'm a fine 
specimen of a man to send on a hunt hke that. 
A weak-kneed mollycoddle who passes into a 
state of coma at the crucial moment. But — I'm 
going to give you that package yet.'* 

The girl turned her head. Mr. Magee saw that 
her eyes were misty with tears. 

"You're playing with me," she said brokenly. 
"I might have known. And I trusted you. You're 
in the game with the others — and I thought you 
weren't. I staked my whole chance of success on 
you — now you're making sport of me. You 
never intended to give me that money — you don't 
intend to now." 

"On my word," cried Magee, "I do intend to 
give it to you. The minute we get back to the 
inn. I have it safe in my room." 

"Give it to her," said the girl bitterly. "Why 
'don't you give it to her?" 

Oh, the perversity of women ! 
It's you I want to give it to," replied Magee 



to 



202 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

warmly. "I don't know what was the matter 
with me last night. I was a fool. You don't 
believe In me, I know — " Her face was cold and 
expressionless. 

"And I wanted to believe in you — so much,'* 
she said. 

"Why did you want to?" cried Magee. 
"Why ?" 

She plodded on through the snow. 

"You must believe," he pleaded. "I don't 
know what all this is about — on my word of 
honor. But I want to give you that money, and I 
will — the minute we get back to the inn. Will 
you believe then? Will you?" 

"I hate you," said the girl simply. 

She should not have said that. As far back 
as he could remember, such opposition had stirred 
Mr. Magee to wild deeds. He opened his mouth 
and words flowed forth. What were the words? 

"I love you ! I love you ! Ever since that mo- 
ment in the station I have loved you! I love 
you !" 

Faintly he heard himself saying it over and 
over. By the gods, he was proposing! Inanely, 



THE COLD GRAY DAWN 203 

in words of one syllable, as the butcher's boy 
might have told his love to the second kitchen 
maid. 

"I love you/' he continued. Idiot! 

Often Mr. Magee had thought of the moment 
when he would tell his love to a woman. It was 
a moment of dim lights, music perhaps in the dis- 
tance, two souls caught up in the magic of the 
moonlit night — a pretty graceful speech from 
him, a sweet gracious surrender from the girl. 
And this — instead. 

"I love you." In heaven's name, was he never 
going to stop saying it? "I want you to believe.''' 

Bright morning on the mountain, a girl in an 
angry mood at his side, a seedy chaperon on his 
trail, an erring cook ahead. Good lord ! He re- 
called that a fellow novelist, whose love scenes 
were regarded as models by young people suffer- 
ing the tender passion, had once confessed that he 
proposed to his wife on a street-car, and was ac- 
cepted just as the conductor handed him his 
transfers. Mr. Magee had been scornful. He 
could never be scornful again. By a tremendous 
effort he avoided repeating his childish refrain. 



204 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

The girl deliberately stopped. There was never 
less of sweet gracious surrender in a suffragette 
hurling a stone through a shop-keeper's window. 
She eyed Mr. Magee pityingly, and they stood 
until Mr. Max caught up with them. 

*'So that's the hermit's shack," said Max, in- 
dicating the little wooden hut at which they had 
arrived. "A funny place for a guy to buiy him- 
self. I should think he'd get to longing for the 
white lights and the table d'hotes with red wine." 

"A very unromantic speech," reproved the girl. 
**You should be deeply thrilled at the thought of 
penetrating the secrets of the hermitage. I am. 
Are you, Mr. Magee?" 

She smiled up at Magee, and he was in that 
state where he thought that in the blue depths 
of her eyes he saw the sunny slopes of the islands 
of the blest. 

*T— " he caught himself in time. He would 
'not be Idiot enough to babble it again. He pulled 
himself together. "I'm going to make you believe 
in me," he said, with a touch of his old jauntiness. 

Mr. Max was knocking with characteristic 
loudness at the hermit's door. 



CHAPTER XI 

"A FALSEHOOD UNDER THE PALMS 



^^'^ ^'"AKE me a willow cabin at your gate/' 



M 



quoted Mr. Magee, looking at the her- 
mit's shack with interest. 

"U-m-m," replied Miss Norton. Thus beauti- 
ful sentiments frequently fare, even at the hands 
of the most beautiful. Mr. Magee abandoned his 
project of completing the speech. 

The door of the hermit's abode opened before 
Mr. Max's masterful knock, and the bearded lit- 
tle man appeared on the threshold. He was clad 
in a purple dressing-gown that suggested some 
woman had picked it. Surely no man could have 
fallen victim to that riot of color. 

"Come in," said the hermit, in a tone so color- 
less it called added attention to the gown. "Miss, 
you have the chair. You'll have to be contented 

with that soap-box davenport, gentlemen. Well ?" 

205 



206 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

He stood facing them In the middle of his her- 
mitage. With curious eyes they examined its 
architecture. Exiled hands had built it of poles 
and clay and a reliable brand of roofing. In the' 
largest room, where they sat, were chairs, a table, 
and a book-shelf hammered together from stray 
boards — furniture midway between that in a hut 
on a desert isle and that of a home made happy 
from the back pages of a woman's magazine. 
On the wall were various posters that defined the 
hermit's taste in art as inflammatory, bold, ar- 
resting. Through one door at the rear they 
caught a glimpse of a tiny kitchen; through an- 
other the white covering of a hall-room cot could 
be seen. 

"Well?" repeated Mr. Peters. "I suppose 
you're a delegation, so to speak?" 

"A cold unfeeling word/' objected Mr. Magee. 

"We have come to plead" — began Miss Nor- 
ton, turning her eyes at their full candle-power on 
the hermit's bearded face. 

"I beg pardon, miss," interrupted Mr. Peters> 
''but it ain't any use. I've thought it all out — in 
the night watches, as the poet says. I came up 



UNDER THE PALMS 207 

here to be alone. I can't be a hermit and a cook, 
too. I can't and be true to myself. No, you'll 
have to accept my resignation, to take effect at 
once.'* 

He sat down on an uncertain chair and regard- 
ed them sorrowfully. His long well-shaped fin- 
gers clutched the cord of the purple gown. 

"It isn't as though we were asking you to give 
up the hermit business for good," argued Magee, 
"It's just for a short time — maybe only for a few 
days. I should think you would welcome the 
diversion," 

Mr. Peters shook his head vigorously. The 
brown curls waved flippantly about his shoulders. 

"My instincts," he replied, "are away from the 
crowd. I explained that to you when we first 
met, Mr. Magee." 

"Any man," commented Mr. Max, " ought to 
be able to strangle his instincts for a good salary, 
payable in advance." 

"You come here," said the hermit with annoy- 
ance, "and you bring with you the sentiments of 
the outside world — the world I have foresworn. 
Don't do it. I ask you." ^ 



2o8 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE ^ 

"I don't get you/' reflected Mr. Max. "No, 
pal, I don't quite grab this hermit game. It ain't 
human nature, I say. Way up here miles from 
the little brass rail and the sporting extra, and 
other things that make life worth living. It's 
beyond me." 

"I'm not asking your approval," replied the 
hermit. "All I ask is to be let alone." 

"Let me speak," said Miss Norton. "Mr. 
Peters and I have been friends, you might say, 
for three years. It was three years ago my awed 
eyes first fell upon him, selling his post-cards at 
the inn. He was to me then — ^the true romance — 
the man to whom the world means nothing with- 
out a certain woman at his side. That is what 
he has meant to all the girls who came to Bald- 
pate. He isn't going to shatter my ideal of him 
• — ^he isn't going to refuse a lady in distress. You 
will come for just a little while, won't you, Mr. 
Peters?" 

But Peters shook his head again. 

"I dislike women as a sex," he said, "but I've 
always been gentle and easy with isolated exam- 
ples of 'em. It ain't my style to turn 'em down. 



UNDER THE PALMS 209 

But this is asking too much. I*m sorry. But I 
got to be true to my oath — I got to be a hermit.'' 

"Maybe," sneered Mr. Max, "he's got good 
reason for being a hermit. Maybe there's brass 
buttons and blue uniforms mixed up in it." 

"You come from the great world of suspicion," 
answered the hermit, turning reproving eyes upon 
him. "Your talk is natural — it goes with the life 
you lead. But it isn't true." 

"And Mr. Max is the last who should insinu-' 
ate," rebuked Mr. Magee. "Why, only last night 
he denounced suspicion, and bemoaned the fact 
that there is so much of it in the world." 

"Well he might," replied the hermit. "Suspi- 
cion is the key-note of modem life — especially in 
New York." He drew the purple dressing-gown 
closer about his plump form. "I remember the 
last time I was in the big town, seeing a crowd of , 
men in the grill-room of the Hoffman House. ^ 
One of them — long, lean, like an eel — stooped! 
down and whispered in the ear of a little fellow 
with a diamond horseshoe desecrating his haber- 
dashery, and pointing to another man near by. 
*No, I won't,' says the man with the diamonds, 



/ 



210 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

*I don't introduce nobody to nobody. Let every 
man play his own game, I say.' That's New 
York. That's the essence of the town. *I intro- 
duce nobody to nobody.' " 

*Tt seems odd," remarked Mr. Magee, "to hear 
you speak of the time you walked on pavements." 

*T haven't always been on Baldpate Mountain," 
replied the hermit. "Once I, too, paid taxes and 
wore a derby hat and sat in barbers' chairs. Yes, 
I sat in 'em in many towns, in many comers of 
this little round globe. But that's all over now." 

The three visitors gazed at Mr. Peters with a 
new interest. 

"New York," said Mr. Max softly, as a better 
man might have spoken the name of the girl he 
loved. "If s a great little Christmas tree. The 
candles are always burning and the tinsel presents 
always look good to me." 

The hermit's eyes strayed far away — down the 
mountain — and beyond. 

"New York," said he, and his tone was that in 
which Max had said the words. "A great little 
Christmas tree it is, with fine presents for the 
reaching. Sometimes, at night here, I see it as it 



UNDER THE PALMS 211 

was four years ago — I see the candles lit on the 
Great White Way — I hear the elevated roar, and 
the newsboys shout, and Diamond Jim Brady 
applauding at a musical comedy's first night. 
New York T' 

Mr. Max rose pompously and pointed a yellow 
finger at the Hermit of Baldpate Mountain. 

"I got you!" he cried in triumph. *'I'm wise! 
You want to go back." 

A half-hearted smile crossed the visible portion 
of the hermit's face. 

"I guess I'm about the poorest liar in the 
world," he said. "I never got away with but one 
lie in my life, and that was only for a little while. 
It was a masterpiece while it lasted, too. But it 
was my only hit as a liar. Usually I fail, as I 
have failed now. I lied when I said I couldn't 
cook for you because I had to be true to my her- 
mit's oath. That isn't the reason. Fm afraid." 



(( 



Afraid?" echoed Mr. Magee. 



"Scared," said Mr. Peters, *'of temptation. 
Your seventh son of a seventh son friend here 
has read my palm O. K. I want to go back. 
Not in the summer, when the inn blazes like 



212 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Broadway every evening, and I can sit here and 
listen to the latest comic opera tunes come drift- 
ing up from the casino, and go down and mingle 
Jwith the muslin brigade any time I want, and 
Isee the sympathetic look in their eyes as they buy 

i 

[my postals. It ain't then I want to go back. It's 
^iWhen fall comes, and the trees on the mountain 
are bare, and Quimby locks up the inn, and 
there's only the wind and me on the mountain 
— then I get the fever. I haven't the post-card 
trade to think of — so I think of Ellen, and New 
,York. She's — ^my wife. New York — it's my 
town. 

' "That's why I can't come among you to 
cook. It'd be leading me into temptation greater 
tthan I could stand. I'd hear your talk, and like 
as not when you went away I'd shave off this 
'beard, and burn the manuscript of Woman, and 
go down into the marts of trade. Last night I 
walked the floor till two. I can't stand such 
temptation." 

Mr. Peters' auditors regarded him in silence. 
He rose and moved toward the kitchen door. 

"Now you understand how it is," he said. 



<( 



UNDER THE PALMS 213 

Perhaps you will go and leave me to my bak- 



mg. 

Hi 



(C 



<(^ 



'One minute," objected Mr. Magee. "You 
spoke of one He — ^your masterpiece. We must 
hear about that." 

'Yes — spin the yam, pal," requested Mr. Max. 
Well," said the hermit reluctantly, "if you're 
quite comfortable — it ain't very short." 

"Please," beamed Miss Norton. 

With a sigh the Hermit of Baldpate Mountain 
sank upon a most unsocial seat and drew his pur- 
ple splendor close. 

"It was like this," he began. "Five years ago 
I worked for a fruit company, and business sent 
me sliding along the edges of strange seas and 
picture-book lands. I met little brown men, and 
listened to the soft swish of the banana growing, 
and had an orchestra seat at a revolution or two. 
Don't look for a magazine story about over- 
thrown tyrants, or anything like that. It's just 
a quiet little lie I'm speaking of, told on a quiet 
little afternoon, by the sands of a sea as blue as 
Baldpate Inn must have been this morning when 
I didn't show up with breakfast. 



214 SEVEN BIEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Sitting on those yellow sands the afternoon 
I speak of, wearing carpet slippers made for me 
by loving, so to speak, hands, I saw Alexander 
McMann come along. He was tall and straight 
and young and free, and I envied him, for even 
in those days my figure would never have done 
in a clothing advertisement, ov/ing to the heri- 
tage of too many table d'hotes about the middle. 
Well, McMann sat at my side, and little by little, 
with the sea washing sad-like near by, I got from 
him the story of his exile, and why. 

"I don't need to tell you it was woman had 
sent him off for the equator. This one's name 
was Marie, I think, and she worked at a lunch- 
counter in Kansas City. From the young man's 
bill-of-fare description of her, I gathered that 
she had cheeks like peaches and cream, but a heart 
like a lunch-counter doughnut, which is hard. 

" 'She cast you off?' I asked. 

" *She threw me down,' said he. 

"Well, it seems he'd bought a ticket for that 
loud-colored country where I met him, and come 
down there to forget. *I could buy the ticket,* 
he said, 'as soon as I learned how to pronounce 



UNDER THE PALMS 215 

the name of this town. But I can't forget. I've 
tried. It's hopeless.* And he sat there looking 
like a man whose best friend has died, owing him 
money. I won't go into his emotions. Mr. 
Bland, up at the inn, is suffering them at the 
present moment, I'm told. They're unimportant ; 
I'll hurry on to the lie. I simply say he was sor- 
rowful, and it seemed to me a crime, what with 
the sun so bright, and the sea so blue, and the 
world so full of a number of things. Yes, it 
certainly was a crime, and I decided he had to 
be cheered up at any cost. How? I thought a 
while, gazing up at the sky, and then it came to 
me — the lie — the great glorious lie — and I told 
it." 

The hermit looked in defiance round the listen- 
ing circle. 

" 'You're chuck full of sorrow now,' I said 
to McMann, 'but it won't last long.' He shook 
his head. 'Nonsense,' I told him. 'Look at me. 
Do you see me doing a heart-bowed-down act 
under the palms? Do you find anything but joy 
in my face?' And he couldn't, the lie unfolding 
itself in such splendor to me. 'You?' he asked. 



2i6 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

*Me,' I said. 'Ten years ago I was where you 
are to-day. A woman had spoken to me as Mabel 
• — or Marie — or what was it ? — spoke to you/ 

"I could see I had the boy interested. I un- 
folded my story, as it occurred to me at the 
moment. *Yes/ said I, 'ten years ago I saw her 
first. Dancing as a butterfly dances from flower 
to flower. Dancing on the stage — a fairy sprite. 
I loved her — worshiped her. It could never be. 
There in the dark of the wings, she told me so. 
And she shed a tear^— a sweet tear of sorrow at 
parting. 

" *I went to my room,' I told McMann, 'with 
a lot of time-tables and steamship books. Bright 
red books — the color came off on my eager 
hands. I picked out a country, and sailed away. 
, Like you, I thought I could never be happy, never 
even smile, again. Look at me.' 

"He looked. I guess my face radiated bliss. 
The idea was so lovely. He was impressed — I 
could see it. T'm supremely happy,' I told him. 
T am my own master. I wander where I will. 
No woman tells me my hour for going out, or 
my hour for coming in. I v;ander. For com- 



UNDER THE PALMS 217 

pany I have her picture — as I saw her last — with 
twinkling feet that never touched earth. As the 
spirit moves, I go. You can move the memory of 
a woman in a flash, my boy, but it takes two 
months to get the real article started, and then 
like as not she's forgot everything of importance. 
Ever thought of that? You should. You're 
going to be as happy as I am. Study me. Re- 
flect.' I waved my carpet-slippered feet toward 
the palms. I had certainly made an impression 
on Alexander McMann, 

"As we walked back over the sands and grass- 
grown streets to the hotel, his heart got away 
from that cupid's lunch-counter, and he was al- 
most cheerful. I was gay to the last, but as I 
parted from him my own heart sank. I knew I 
had to go back to her, and that she would prob- 
ably give me a scolding about the carpet slippers. 
I parted from McMann with a last word of cheer. 
Then I went to the ship — to her. My wife. 
That was the lie, you understand. She traveled 
everywhere with me. She never trusted me. 

"We were due to sail that night, and I was 
glad. For I worried some over what I had done.- 



2i8 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Suppose my wife and Alexander McMann should 
meet. An estimable woman, but large, deter- 
mined, little suggesting the butterfly of the foot- 
lights I married, long before. We had a bad 
session over the carpet slippers. The boat was 
ready to sail, when McMann came aboard. He 
carried a bag, and his face shone. 

" *She's sent for me,' he said. *Marie wants 
me. I got a letter from my brother. I'll blow 
into Kansas like a cyclone, and claim her.' 

"I was paralyzed. At that minute a large black 
figure appeared on deck. It headed for me. 
*Jake,' it says, 'you've sat up long enough. Go 
below now.' 

"McMann's face was terrible. I saw it was 
all up. T lied, McMann,' I explained. *The idea 
just came to me, it fascinated me, and I lied. 
She did turn me down — ^there in the wings. And 
she shed that tear I spoke of, too. But, when 
I was looking over the railroad folders, she sent 
for me. I went — on the wings of love. It was 
two blocks — ^but I went on the wings of love. 
We've been married twenty years. Forgive me, 
McMann !' 



UNDER THE PALMS 219^ 

"McMann turned around. He picked up the 
bag. I asked where he was going. *Ashore,' he 
said, 'to think. I may go back to Kansas City — ' 
I may. But I'll just think a bit first.' And he 
climbed into the ship's boat. I never saw him 
again." 

The hermit paused, and gazed dreamily into 
space. 

"That," he said, "was my one great lie, my 
masterpiece. A year afterward I came up here 
on the mountain to be a hermit." 

"As a result of it?" asked Miss Norton. 

"Yes," answered Mr. Peters, "I told the story 
to a friend. I thought he was a friend — so he 
was, but married. My wife got to hear of it. 
'So you denied my existence,' she said. 'As a 
joke,' I told her. 'The joke's on you,' she says. 
That was the end. She went her way, and I 
went mine. I'd just unanimously gone her way 
so long, I was a little dazed at first with my free- 
dom. After fighting for a living alone for a 
time, I came up here. It's cheap. I get the 
solitude I need for my book. Not long ago I 
heard I could go back to her if I apologized." 



220 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 



<(( 



<<T». 



'Stick to your guns," advised Mr. Max. 

I'm trying to/' Mr. Peters replied. "But it's 
lonesome here — in winter. And at Christmas in 
particular. This dressing-gown was a Christmas 
present from Ellen. She picked it. Pretty, ain't 
it? You see why I can't come down and cook 
for you. I might get the fever for society, and 
shave, and go to Brooklyn, where she's living 
with her sister." 

*'But," said Mr. Magee, "we're in an awful fix. 
You've put us there. Mr. Peters, as a man of 
honor, I appeal to you. Your sense of fairness 
must tell you my appeal is just. Risk it one more 
day, and I'll have a cook sent up from the vil- 
lage. Just one day. There's no danger in that. 
Surely you can resist temptation one little day. 
A man of your character." 

Miss Norton rose and stood before Mr. Peters. 
She fixed him with her eyes — eyes into which 
no man could gaze and go his way unmoved. 

"Just one tiny day," she pleaded. 

Mr. Peters sighed. He rose. 

**rm a fool," he said. "I can't help it. I'll 



UNDER THE PALMS 221 

take chances on another day. Though nobody 
Icnows where It'll lead." 

"Brooklyn, maybe/' whispered Lou Max to 
Magee in mock horror. 

The hermit donned his coat, attended to a few 
household duties, and led the delegation outside. 
Dolefully he locked the door of his shack. The 
four started down the mountain. 

"Back to Baldpate with our cook," said Mr. 
Magee into the girl's ear. "I know now how 
Caesar felt when he rode through Rome with his 
ex-foes festooned about his chariot wheels." 

Mr. Max again chose the rear, triumphantly 
escorting Mr. Peters. As Mr. Magee and the 
girl swung into the lead, the former was moved 
to recur to the topic he had handled so amateur- 
ishly a short time before. 

"I'll make you believe in me yet," he said. 

She did not turn her head. 

"The moment we reach the inn," he went on, 
"I shall come to you, with the package of money 
in my hand. Then you'll believe I want to help 
you — tell me you'll believe then." 



^22 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Very likely I shall," answered the girl with- 
out interest. "If you really do intend to give 
me that money — no one must know about it." 
j "No one shall know," he answered, "but you 
and me." 

They walked on in silence. Then shyly the 
girl turned her head. Oh, most assuredly, she 
was desirable. Clumsy as had been his declara- 
tion, Mr. Magee resolved to stick to it through 
eternity. 

"I'm sorry I spoke as I did," she said. "Will 
you forgive me?" 

"Forgive you ?" he cried. "Why, I — " 

"And now," she interrupted, "let us talk of 
other things. Of ships, aad shoes, and sealing- 



wax — " 



) "All the topics in the world," he replied, "can 
lead to but one with me — " 

"Ships?" asked the girl. 

"For honeymoons," he suggested. 

"Shoes?" 

"In some circles of society, I believe they are 
•flung at bridal parties." 

"And sealing-wax?" ^ 



«T»1 



UNDER THE PALMS 223 

'On the license, isn't it ?'' he queried. 
I'll not try you on cabbage and kings," 
laughed the girl. "Please, oh, please, don't fail 
me. You won't, will you?" Her face was seri- 
ous. "You see, it means so very much to me." 

"Fail you ?" cried Magee. "I'd hardly do that 
now. In ten minutes that package will be in your 
hands — along with my fate, my lady." 

"I shall be so relieved." She turned her face 
away, there was a faint flush in the cheek toward 
Mr. Magee. "And — happy," she whispered un- 
der her breath. 

They were then at the great front door of 
Baldpate Inn. 



CHAPTER XII 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 



INSIDE, before the office fire, Miss Thornhill 
read a magazine in the indolent fashion so 
much affected at Baldpate Inn during the heated 
term; while the mayor of Reuton chatted amia- 
bly with the ponderously coy Mrs. Norton. Into 
this circle burst the envoys to the hermitage, 
flushed, energetic, snowflaked. 

"Hail to the chef who in triumph advances!" 
cried Mr. Magee. 

He pointed to the door, through which Mr. 
Max was leading the captured Mr. Peters. 

"You got him, didyu?" rasped Mrs. Norton. 

"Without the use of anesthetics," answered 
Magee. "Everybody ready for one of Mr. Pe- 
ters' inimitable lunches?" 

"Put me down at the head of the list," con- 
tributed the mayor. 

224 



^> r' 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 22^ 

Myra Thornhill laid down her magazine, and 
fixed her great black eyes upon the radiant girl 
in corduroy. 

"And was the walk in the morning air," she 
asked, "all you expected?" 

"All, and much more," laughed Miss Norton, 
mischievously regarding the man who had bab- 
bled to her of love on the mountain. "By the 
way, enjoy Mr. Peters while you can. He's back 
for just one day." 

"Eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow the 
cook leaves, as the fellow says," supplemented 
Mr. Max, removing his overcoat. 

"How about a quick lunch, Peters?" inquired 
Magee. 

"Out of what, rd like to know," put in Mrs. 
Norton. "Not a thing in the house to eat. Just 
like a man." 

"You didn't look in the right place, ma'am," 
replied Mr. Peters with relish. "I got supplies 
for a couple of days in the kitchen." 

"Well, what's the sense in hiding 'em?" the 
large lady inquired. 

"It ain't hiding — it's system," explained Mr. 



226 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Peters. "Something women don't understand." 
He came close to Mr. Magee, and whispered low : 
"You didn't warn me there was another of 'em." 

"The last, on my word of honor," Magee told 
him. 

"The last," sneered Mr. Peters. "There isn't 
any last up here." And with a sidelong glance at 
the new Eve in his mountain Eden, he turned 
away to the kitchen. 

"Now," whispered Magee to Miss Norton, "I'll 
get you that package. I'll prove that it was for 
you I fought and bled the mayor of Reuton. 
Watch for our chance — when I see you a^ain 
I'll have it in my pocket." 

"You mustn't fail me," she replied. "It means 
so much." 

Mr. Magee started for the stairs. Between 
him and them loomed suddenly the great bulk of 
Mr. Cargan. His hard menacing eyes looked 
full into Magee's. 

"I want to speak to you, young fellow," he re- 
marked. 

"I'm flattered," said Magee, "that you find my 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 22T 

company so enchanting. In ten minutes Fll be 
ready for another interview." 

"You're ready now," answered the mayor, 
"even if you don't know it." His tone was that 
of one correcting a child. He took Mr. Magee's 
arm in a grip which recalled to that gentleman a 
fact the muckraking stories always dwelt on — 
how this Cargan had, in the old days, "put away 
his man" in many shady corners of a great city. 

"Come over here," said Cargan. He led the 
way to a window. Over his shoulder Magee 
noted the troubled eyes of Miss Norton follow- 
ing. "Sit down. I've been trying to dope you 
out, and I think I've got you. I've seen your 
kind before. Every few months one of 'em 
breezes into Reuton, spends a whole day talking 
to a few rats I've had to exterminate from poli- 
tics, and then flies back to New York >vith a ten- 
page story of my vicious career all ready for the 
linotypers. Yes, sir — I got you. You write sweet 
things for the magazines." 

"Think so?" inquired Magee. 

"Know it," returned the mayor heartily. "So 



228 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

youVe out after old Jim Cargan's scalp again, 
are you? I thought that now, seeing stories on 
the corruption of the courts is so plentiful, you'd 
3et the shame of the city halls alone for a while. 
But — well, I guess I'm what you guys call good 
copy. Big, brutal, uneducated, picturesque — ^you 
see I read them stories myself. How long will 
the American public stand being ruled by a man 
like this, when it might be authorizing pretty boys 
with kid gloves to get next to the good things? 
That's the dope, ain't it — the old dope of the re- 
form gang — the ballyhoo of the bunch that can't 
let the existing order stand? Don't worry, I 
ain't going to get started on that again. But I 
want to talk to you serious — like a father. There 
was a young fellow like you once — " 

"Like me ?" 

"Exactly. He was out working on long hours 
and short pay for the reform gang, and he hap- 
pened to get hold of something that a man 1 
knew — a man high up in public office — wanted, 
and wanted bad. The young fellow was going to 
get two hundred dollars for the article he was 
writing. My friend offered him twenty thou- 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 229 

sand to call it off. What'd the young fellow do?" 

"Wrote the article, of course," said Magee. 

"Now — now," reproved Cargan. "That re- 
mark don't fit in with the estimate I've made of 
you. I think you're a smart boy. Don't disap- 
point me. This young fellow I speak of — he 
was smart, all right. He thought the matter 
over. He knew the reform bunchj through and 
through. All glory and no pay, serving them. 
He knew how they chased bubbles, and made a 
lot of noise, and never got anywhere in the end. 
He thought it over, Magee, the same as you're 
going to do. 'You're on,' says this lad, and added 
five figures to his roll as easy as we'd add a nickel. 
He had brains, that guy." 

"And no conscience," commented Magee. 

"Conscience," said Mr. Cargan, "ain't worth 
much except as an excuse for a man that hasn't 
made good to give his wife. How much did you 
say you was going to get for this article?" 

Mr. Magee looked him coolly In the eye. 

"If it's ever written,'* he said, "it will be a two- 
hundred-thousand-dollar story." 

"There ain't anything like that in it for you," 



230 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

replied the mayor. "Think over what I've told 
you." 

"I'm afraid," smiled Magee, "I'm too busy to 
think." 

He again crossed the office floor to the stair- 
way. Before the fire sat the girl of the station, 
her big eyes upon him, pleadingly. With a re- 
assuring smile in her direction, he darted up the 
stairs. 

"And now," he thought, as he closed and 
locked the door of number seven behind him, "for 
the swag. So Cargan would give twenty thou- 
sand for that little package. I don't blame him." 

He opened a window and glanced out along 
the balcony. It was deserted in either direction ; 
iits snowy floor was innocent of footprints. Re- 
entering number seven, he knelt by the fireplace 
and dug up the brick under which lay the pack- 
age so dear to many hearts on Baldpate Moun- 
tain. 

"I might have known," he muttered. 

For the money was gone. He dug up several 
of the bricks, and rummaged about beneath them. 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 231^ 

No use. The fat little bundle of bills had flown. 
Only an ugly hole gaped up at him. 

He sat down. Of course! What a fool he 
had been to suppose that such treasure as this 
would stay long in a hiding-place so obvious. 
He who had made a luxurious living writing 
tales of the chase of gems and plate and gold 
had bungled the thing from the first. He could 
hammer out on a typewriter wild plots and coun- 
ter-plots — with a boarding-school girl's cupid 
busy all over the place. But he could not live 
them. 

A boarding-school cupid! Good lord! He 
remembered the eyes of the girl in blue corduroy 
as they had met his when he turned to the stairs. 
What would she say now ? On this he had gaily 
staked her faith in him. This was to be the test 
of his sincerity, the proof of his devotion. And 
now he must go to her, looking like a fool once 
more — ^go to her and confess that again he had 
failed her. 

His rage blazed forth. So they had "got to 
him", after all. Who? He thought of the 



232 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

smooth crafty mountain of a man who had de- 
tained him a moment ago. Who but Cargan and 
Max, of course? They had found his childish 
hiding-place, and the money had come home to 
their eager hands. No doubt they were laughing 
slyly at him now. 

Well, he would show them yet. He got up 
and walked the floor. Once he had held them 
up in the snow and spoiled their little game — he 
would do it again. How? When? He did not 
know. His soul cried for action of some sort, 
but he was up against a blind alley, and he 
knew it. 

He unlocked the door of number seven. To 
go down-stairs, to meet the sweet eagerness of 
the girl who depended on him, to confess him- 
self tricked — it took all the courage he had. Why 
had it all happened, anyhow? Confound it, 
hadn't he come up here to be alone with his 
thoughts? But, brighter side, it had given him 
her — or it would give him her before the last 
card was played. He shut his teeth tightly, and 
went down the stairs. 

Mr. Bland had added himself to the group 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 233'. 

about the fire. Quickly the eyes of Miss Norton 
met Magee's. She was trembHng with excite- 
ment. Cargan, huge, red, cheery, got in Magee's 
path once more. 

"I'll annihilate this man," thought Magee. 

"I've been figuring," said the mayor, "that was 
one thing he didn't have to contend with. No, 
sir, there wasn't any bright young men hunting 
up old Napoleon and knocking him in the 
monthly magazines. They didn't go down to 
Sardinia and pump it out of the neighbors that 
he started business on borrowed money, and that 
his father drank more than was good for him. 
They didn't run illustrated articles about the dia- 
monds he wore, and moving pictures of him eat- 
ing soup." 

"No, I guess not," replied Magee abstractedly. 

"I reckon there was a lot in his record wasn't 
meant for the newspapers," continued Cargan re- 
flectively. "And it didn't get there. Nap was 
lucky. He had it on the reformers there. They 
couldn't squash him with the power of the press." 

Mr. Magee broke away from the mayor's re- 
hashed history, and hurried to Miss Norton. 



234 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 



(t 

u 



You promised yesterday," he reminded her, 
to show me the pictures of the admiral." 

"Sd I did," she rephed, rising quickly. "To 
think you have spent all this time in Baldpate 
Inn and not paid homage to its own particular 
cock of the walk." 

She led him to a portrait hanging beside the 
<iesk. 

"Behold," she said, "the admiral on a sunny 
day in July. Note the starchy grandeur of him, 
even with the thermometer up in the clouds. 
That's one of the things the rocking-chair fleet 
adores in him. Can you imagine the flurry at 
the approach of all that superiority? Theodore 
Roosevelt, William Faversham, and Richard 
Harding Davis all arriving together couldn't 
overshadow the admiral for a minute." 

Mr. Magee gazed at the picture of a pompous 
little man, whose fierce mustache seemed anxious 
to make up for the lack of hair on his head. 

"A bald hero at a summer resort," he com- 
mented, "it seems incredible." 

"Oh, they think he lost his hair fighting for 
the flag," she laughed. "It's winter, and snow- 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 235 

ing, or I shouldn't dare Icse-majeste. And — over 
here — is the admiral on the veranda, playing it's 
a quarter deck. And here the great portrait — 
Andrew Rutter with a profaning arm over the 
admiral's shoulder. The old ladies make their 
complaints to Mr. Rutter in softer tones after 
seeing that picture." 

"And this?" asked Magee, moving farther 
from the group by the fire. 

"A precious one — I wonder they leave it here 
in winter. This is the admiral as a young man — 
clipped from a magazine article. Even without 
the mustache, you see, he had a certain martial 
bearing." 

"And now he's the ruler of the queen's navee," 
smiled Magee. He looked about. "Is it possible 
to see the room where the admiral plays his fa- 
mous game?" 

"Step softly," she answered. "In here. There 
stands the very table." 

They went into the small card-room at the right 
of the entrance to the office, and Mr. Magee 
quietly closed the door behind them. The time 
had come. He felt his heart sink. 



236 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Well?" said the girl, with an eagerness she 
could not conceal. 

Mr. Magee groped for words. And found — 
his old friends of the mountain. 

"I love you/' he cried desperately. "You must 
believe I want to help you. It looks rather the 
other way now, I'll admit. I want you to have 
that money. I don't know who you are, nor what 
this all means, but I want you to have it. I went 
up-stairs determined to give it to you — " 

"Really." The word was at least fifty degrees 
below the temperature of the card-room. 

"Yes, really. I won't ask you to believe — but 
I'm telling the truth. I went to the place where 
I had fatuously hid the money — under a brick of 
my fireplace. It was gone." 

"How terribly unfortunate." 

"Yes, isn't it?" Mr. Magee rejoiced that she 
took so calm a view of it. "They searched the 
room, of course. And they found the money. 
They're on top now. But I'm going — " 

He stopped. For he had seen her face. She 
— taking a calm view of it? No, indeed. Billy 
Magee saw that she was furiously, wildly angry. 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 237 

He remembered always having written it down 
that beautiful women were even more beautiful 
in anger. How, he wondered, had he fallen into 
that error? 

"Please do not bore me," she said through her 
teeth, "with any further recital of what you ^are 
going' to do. You seem to have a fatal facility 
in that line. Your record of accomplishment is 
pathetically weak. And — oh, what a fool I've 
been! I believed. Even after last night, I be- 
lieved." 

No, she was not going to cry. Hers was no 
mood for tears. What said the librettist? 
"There is beauty in the roaring of the gale, and 
the tiger when a-lashing of his tail." Such was 
the beauty of a woman in anger. And nothing 
to get enthusiastic about, thought Mr. Magee. 

"I know," he said helplessly, "you're terribly 
disappointed. And I don't blame you. But you 
will find out that you've done me an injustice. 
I'm going — " 

"One thing," said she, smiling a smile that 
could have cut glass, "you are going to do. I 
know that you won't fail this time, because I 



238 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

shall personally see you through with it. You're 
going to stop making a fool of me." 

"Tell me," pleaded Billy Magee. "Tell me 
who you are — what this is all about. Can't you 
see I'm working in the dark ? You must — " 

She threw open the card-room door. 

"An English officer," she remarked loudly, 
stepping out into the other room, "taught the ad- 
miral the game. At least, so he said. It added 
so much romance to it in the eyes of the rocking- 
chair fleet. Can't you see — India — ^the hot sun 
— the Kipling local color— a silent, tanned, hand- 
some man eternally playing solitaire on the porch 
of the barracks ? Has the barracks a porch ?" 

Roused, humiliated, baffled, Mr. Magee felt his 
cheeks burn. 

"We shall see what we shall see," he muttered. 

"Why coin the inevitable into a bromide," she 
asked. 

Mr. Magee joined the group by the fire. Never 
before in his life had he been so determined on 
anything as he was now that the package of 
money should return to his keeping. But how? 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 239 

How trace through this maze of humans the 
present holder of that precious bundle of collat- 
eral ? He looked at Mr. Max, sneering his lemon- 
colored sneer at the mayor's side; at the mayor 
himself, nonchalant as the admiral being photo- 
graphed ; at Bland, author of the Arabella fiction, 
sprawling at ease before the fire; at the tawdry 
Mrs. Norton, and at Myra Thornhill, who had 
by her pleading the night before made him ridicu- 
lous. Who of these had the money now? Who 
but Cargan and Max, their faces serene, their 
eyes eagerly on the preparations for lunch, their 
plans for leaving Baldpate Inn no doubt already 
made? 

And then Mr. Magee saw coming down the 
stairs another figure — one he had forgot — Pro- 
fessor Thaddeus Bolton, he of the mysterious 
dialogue by the annex door. On the professor's 
forehead was a surprising red scratch, and his 
eyes, no longer hidden by the double convex 
lenses, stood revealed a washed-out gray in the 
light of noon. 

"A most unfortunate accident," explained the 



240 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

old man. "Most distressing. I have broken my 
glasses. I am almost blind without them." 

''How'd it happen, Doc?" asked Mr. Cargan 
easily. 

"I came into unexpected juxtaposition with an 
open door," returned Professor Bolton. ''Stupid 
of me, but I'm always doing it. Really, the agil- 
ity displayed by doors in getting in my path is 
surprising." 

"You and Mr. Max can sympathize with each 
other," said Magee, "I thought for a moment 
your injuries might have been received in the 



same cause." 



il^ 



Don't worry, Doc," Mr. Bland soothed him, 
'**we'll all keep a weather eye out for reporters 
that want to connect you up with the peroxide 
blondes." 

The professor turned his Ineffectual gaze on 
the haberdasher, and there was a startlingly ironic 
smile on his face. 

"I know, Mr. Bland," he said, "that my safety 
is your dearest wish." 

The Hermit of Baldpate announced that lunch 



WOE IN NUMBER SEVEN 241^ 

was ready, and with the others Mr. Magee took 
his place at the table. Food for thought was also 
his. The spectacles of Professor Thaddeus Bolton 
were broken. Somewhere in the scheme of things 
those smashed lenses must fit. But where? 



CHAPTER Xlir 

THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN" 

IT was past three o'clock. The early twilight 
crept up the mountain, and the shadows be- 
gan to lengthen in the great bare office of Bald- 
pate Inn. In the red flicker of firelight Mr. Ma- 
gee sat and pondered ; the interval since luncheon 
had passed lazily; he was no nearer to guessing 
which of Baldpate Inn's winter guests hugged 
close the precious package. Exasperated, angry, 
he waited for he knew not what, restless all the 
while to act, but having not the glimmer of an 
inspiration as to what his course ought to be. 

He heard the rustle of skirts on the stair land- 
ing, and looked up. Down the broad stairway,| 
so well designed to serve as a show-window for 
the sartorial triumphs of Baldpate's gay summer 
people, came the tall handsome girl who had the 

night before set all his plans awry. In the swift- 

242 



THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN 243; 

moving atmosphere of the inn she had hitherto 
been to Mr. Magee but a puppet of the shadows, 
a figure more fictitious than real. Now for the 
first time he looked upon her as a flesh-and-blood 
girl, noted the red in her olive cheeks, the fire in 
her dark eyes, and realized that her interest in 
that package of money might be something more 
than another queer quirk in the tangle of events. 

She smiled a friendly smile at Magee, and took 
the chair he offered. One small slipper beat a 
discreet tattoo on the polished floor of Baldpate's 
ofBce. Again she suggested to Billy Magee a 
house of wealth and warmth and luxury, a house 
where Arnold Bennett and the post-impression- 
ists are often discussed, a house the head of which 
becomes purple and apoplectic at the mention of 
Colonel Roosevelt's name. 

"Last night, Mr. Magee,'' she said, "I told you 
frankly why I had come to Baldpate Inn. You 
were good enough to say that you would help 
me if you could. The time has come when you 
can, I think." 

"Yes?" answered Magee. His heart sank. 
What now? 



244 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 



"I must confess that I spied this morning," 
she went on. "It was rude of me, perhaps. But 
I think almost anything is excusable under the 
circumstances, don't you? I witnessed a scene 
in the hall above — Mr. Magee, I know who has 
the two hundred thousand dollars !" 

"You know?" cried Magee. His heart gave a 
great bound. At last! And then— he stopped. 
"I'm afraid I must ask you not to tell me," he 
added sadly. 

The girl looked at him in wonder. She was of 
a type common in Magee's world — delicate, 
finely- reared, sensitive. True, in her pride and 
haughtiness she suggested the snow-capped 
heights of the eternal hills. But at sight of those 
feminine heights Billy Magee had always been 
one to seize his alpenstock in a more determined 
grip, and climb. Witness his attentions to the 
supurb Helen Faulkner. He had a moment of 
faltering. Here was a girl who at least did not 
doubt him, who ascribed to him the virtues of a 
gentleman, who was glad to trust in him. Should 
he transfer his allegiance? No, he could hardly 
do that now. 



THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN 245 

"You ask me not to tell you," repeated the girl 
slowly. 

"That demands an explanation," replied Billy 
Magee. "I want you to understand — to be cer- 
tain that I would delight to help you if I could. 
But the fact is that before you came I gave my 
word to secure the package you speak of for — 
another woman. I can not break my promise to 
her." 

*T see," she answered. Her tone was cool. 

"I'm very sorry," Magee went on. "But as a 
matter of fact, I seem to be of very little service 
to any one. Just now I would give a great deal 
to have the information you were about to give 
me. But since I could not use it helping you, 
you will readily see that I must not listen. I'm 
sorry." 

"I'm sorry, too," replied the girl. "Thank 
you very much — for telling me. Now I must — 
go forward — alone." She smiled unhappily. 

"I'm afraid you must," answered Billy Magee. 

On the stairs appeared the slim figure of the 
other girl. Her great eyes were wistful, her face 
was pale. She came toward them through the 



246 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

red firelight. Mr. Magee saw what a fool he 
had been to waver in his allegiance even for a 
moment. For he loved her, wanted her, surely. 
The snow-capped heights are inspiring, but far 
more companionable is the brook that sparkles 
in the valley. 

"It's rather dull, isn't it?'* asked Miss Norton 
of the Thornhill girl. By the side of the taller 
woman she seemed slight, almost childish. "Have 
you seen the pictures of the admiral, Miss Thorn- 
hill? Looking at them is our one diversion." 

"I do not care to see them, thank you," Myra 
Thornhill replied, moving toward the stairs. "He 
is a very dear friend of my father." She passed 
up and out of sight. 

Miss Norton turned away from the fire, and 
Mr. Magee rose hastily to follow. He stood 
close behind her, gazing down at her golden hair' 
shimmering in the dark. 

"I've just been thinking," he said lightly, "what 
an absolutely ridiculous figure I must be in your 
eyes, buzzing round and round like a bee in a bot- 
tle, and getting nowhere at all. Listen — no one 
has left the inn. While they stay, there's hope. 



THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN 247' 

Am I not to have one more chance — a chance to 
prove to you how much I care?" 

She turned, and even in the dusk he saw that 
her eyes were wet. 

"Oh, I don't know, I don't know," she whis- 
pered. "I'm not angry any more. I'm just — at 
sea. I don't know what to think — what to do. 
Why try any longer? I think I'll go away — and 
give up." 

"You mustn't do that," urged Magee. They 
came back into the firelight. "Miss Thornhill has 
just informed me that she knows who has the 
package !" 

"Indeed," said the girl calmly, but her face had 
flushed. 

"I didn't let her tell me, of course." 

"Why not?" Oh, how maddening women 

could be! 

"Why not?" Magee's tone was hurt. "Be- 
cause I couldn't use her information in getting 
the money for you.'* 

"You are still 'going to' get the money for 

me?" 

Maddening, certainly, as a rough-edged collar. 



248 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Of — '' Magee began, but caught himself. No, 
he would prate no more of 'going to*. "I'll not 
ask you to believe it," he said, "until I bring it 
to you and place it in your hand.'** 

She turned her face slowly to his and lifted her 
blue eyes. 

"I wonder," she said. "I wonder." 

The firelight fell on her lips, her hair, her 
eyes, and Mr. Magee knew that his selfish bach- 
elorhood was at an end. Hitherto, marriage had 
been to him the picture drawn by the pathetic 
exiled master. "There are no more pleasant by- 
paths down which you may wander, but the road 
lies long and straight and dusty to the grave." 
What if it were so? With the hand of a girl like 
this in his, what if the pleasant by-paths of his 
solitude did bear hereafter the "No Thorough- 
fare" sign? Long the road might be, and he 
would rejoice in its length ; dusty perhaps, but her 
smile through the dust would make it all worth 
while. He stooped to her. 

"Give me, please," he said, "the benefit of the 
doubt." It was a poor speech compared to what 
was in his heart, but Billy Magee was rapidly 



THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN 249 

learning that most of the pretty speeches went 
with puppets who could not feel. 

Bland and Max came in from a brisk walk on 
the veranda. The mayor of Reuton, who had 
been dozing near the desk, stirred. 

''Great air up here," remarked Mr. Max, rub- 
bing his hands before the fire. "Ought to be 
pumped down into the region of the white lights. 
It sure would stir things up." 

"It would put out the lights at ten p. u." 
answered Mr. Magee, "and inculcate other 
wholesome habits of living disastrous to the res- 
taurant impresarios." 

Miss Norton rose and ascended the stairs. Still 
the protesting Magee was at her heels. At the 
head of the stair she turned. 

"You shall have your final chance," she said. 
"The mayor, Max and Bland are alone in the 
office. I don't approve of eavesdropping at Bald- 
pate in the summer — it has spoiled a lot of per- 
fectly adorable engagements. But in winter it's 
different. Whether you really want to help me 
or not Tm sure I don't know, but if you do, the 
conversation below now might prove of interest." 



250 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"I'm sure it would," Magee replied. 

"Well, I have a scheme. Listen. Baldpate 
Inn is located in a temperance county. That 
doesn't mean that people don't drink here — it 
simple means that there's a lot of mystery and ro- 
mance connected with the drinking. Sometimes 
those who follow the god of chance in the card- 
room late at night grow thirsty. Now it hap- 
pens that there is a trap-door in the floor of 
the card-room, up which drinks are frequently 
passed from the cellar. Isn't that exciting? A 
hotel clerk who became human once in my pres- 
ence told me ail about it. If you went into the 
cellar and hunted about, you might find that door 
and climb up into the card-room." 

"A bully idea," agreed Mr. Magee. "I'll hurry 
down there this minute. I'm more grateful than 
you can guess for this chance. And this time — • 
but you'll see." 

He found the back stairs, and descended. In 
the kitchen the hermit got in his path. - 

"Mr. Magee," he pleaded, "I consider that, in 
a way, I work for you here. I've got something 
important to tell you. Just a minute — " 



THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN 251 

"Sorry," answered Magee, "but I can't possi- 
bly stop now. In an hour I'll talk to you. Show 
me the cellar door, and don't mention where I've 
gone, there's a good fellow." 

Mr. Peters protested that his need of talk was 
urgent, but to no avail. Magee hurried to the cel- 
lar, and with the aid of a box of matches found a 
ladder leading to a dobr cut in the floor above. He 
climbed through dust and cobwebs, unfastened 
the catch, and pushed cautiously upward. In 
another minute he was standing in the chill little 
card-room. Softly he opened the card-room door 
about half an inch, and put his ear to it. 

The three men were grouped very close at 
hand, and he heard Mr. Bland speaking in low 
tones : 

"I'm talking to you boys as a friend. The 
show is over. There ain't no use hanging round, 
for the concert — there won't be none. Go home 
and get some clean collars and a square meal." 

"If you think I'm going to be shook off by any 
fairy story like that," said the mayor of Reuton, 
"you're a child with all a child's touching faith." 



252 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"All right," replied Mr. Bland, "I thought I'd 
pass you the tip, that's all. It ain't nothing to 
me what you do. But it's all over, and you've 
lost out. I'm sorry you have — ^but I take Hay- 
den's orders." 

"Damn Hayden!" snarled the mayor. "It was 
his idea to make a three-act play out of this thing. 
He's responsible for this silly trip to Baldpate. 
This audience we've been acting for — he let us 
in for them." 

"I know," said Bland. "But you can't deny 
that Baldpate Inn looked like the ideal spot at 
first. Secluded, off the beaten path, you know, 
and all that." 

"Yes," sneered the mayor, "as secluded as a 
Sunday-school the Sunday before Christmas." 

"Well, who could have guessed it?" went on 
Mr. Bland. "As I say, I don't care what you do. 
I just passed you the tip. I've got that nice little 
package of the long green — I've got it where 
you'll never find It. Yes, sir, it's returned to the 
loving hands of little Joe Bland, that brought it 
here first. It ain't going to roam no more. So 
what's the use of your sticking around?" 



THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN 253 

"How did you get hold of it?" inquired Mr. 
Lou Max. 

"I had my eye on this httle professor person," 
explained Mr. Bland. "This morning when 
Magee went up the mountain I trailed the high- 
brow to Magee's room. When I busted in, un- 
announced by the butler, he was making his get- 
away. I don't like to talk about what followed. 
He's an old man, and I sure didn't mean to break 
his glasses, nor scratch his dome of thought. 
There's ideas in that dome go back to the time of 
Anthony J. Chaucer. But — he's always talking 
about that literature chair of his — why couldn't 
he stay at home and sit in it ? Anyhow, I got the 
bundle all right, all right. I wonder what the lit- 
tle fossil wants with it." 

"The Doc's glasses zvas broke," said Max, evi- 
dently to the mayor of Reuton. 

"Um-m," came Cargan's voice. "Bland, how 
much do you make working for this nice kind 
gentleman, Mr. Hayden?" 

"Oh, about two thousand a year, with pick- 
ings," replied Bland. 

"Yes?" went on Mr. Cargan. "I ain't no 



254 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Charles Dana Gibson with words. My talk's a 
little rough and sketchy, I guess. But here's the 
outline, plain as I can make it. Two thousand a 
year from Hayden. Twenty thousand in two 
seconds if you hand that package to me." 

"No," objected Bland. "I've been honest — 
after a fashion. I can't quite stand for that. I'm 
working for Hayden." 

"Don't be a fool," sneered Max. 

"Of course," said the mayor, "I appreciate 
your scruples, having had a few in my day my- 
self, though you'd never think so to read the Star. 
But look at it sensible. The money belongs to 
me. If you was to hand it over you'd be just doing 
plain justice. What right has Hayden on his 
side? I did what was agreed — do I get my pay? 
No. Who are you to defeat the ends of justice 
this way? That's how you ought to look at it. 
You give me what's my due — and you put twenty 
thousand in your pocket by an honest act. Hay- 
den comes. He asks for the bundle. You point 
to the dynamited safe. You did your best." 

"No," said Bland, but his tone was less firm. 
"I can't go back on Hayden. No — it wouldn't — " 



THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN 255 

"Twenty thousand," repeated Cargan. "Ten 
years' salary the way you're going ahead at pres- 
ent. A lot of money for a young man. If I was 
you I wouldn't hesitate a minute. Think. 
What's Hayden ever done for you? He'll 
throw you down some day, the way he's thrown 
me." 

"I — I — don't know — " wavered Bland. Mr. 
Magee, in the card- room, knew that Hayden's 
emissary was tottering on the brink. 

"You could set up in business," whined Mr. 
Max. "Why, if I'd had that much money at 
your age, I'd be a millionaire to-day." 

"You get the package," suggested the mayor, 
"take twenty thousand out, and slip the rest to 
me. No questions asked. I guess there ain't no- 
body mixed up in this affair will go up on the 
housetops and shout about it when we get back' 
to Reuton." 

"Well,—" began Bland. He was lost. Sud- 
denly the quiet of Baldpate Mountain was as- 
sailed by a loud pounding at the inn door, and a 
voice crying, "Bland. Let me in." 

"There's Hayden now," cried Mr. Bland. 



2S6 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"It ain't too late," came the mayor's voicCo 
"You can do it yet. It ain't too late." 

"Do what ?" cried Bland in a firm tone. "You 
can't bribe me, Cargan." He raised his voice. 
"Go round to the east door, Mr. Hayden." Then 
he added, to Cargan: "That's my answer. I'm 
going to let him in." 

"Let him in," bellowed the mayor. "Let the 
hound in. I guess I've got something to say to 
Mr. Hayden." 

There came to Magee's ears the sound of open- 
ing doors, and of returning footsteps. 

"How do you do, Cargan," said a voice new to 
Baldpate. 

"Cut the society howdydoes," replied the 
mayor hotly. "There's a little score to be settled 
between me and you, Hayden. I ain't quite wise 
to your orchid-in-the-buttonhole ways. I don't 
quite follow them. I ain't been bred in the club 
you hang around — they blackballed me when I 
tried to get in. You know that. I'm a rough 
rude man. I don't understand your system. 
When I give my word, I keep it. Has that gone 
out of style up on the avenue, where you live?" 



THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN 257 

"There are conditions — " began Hayden. 

"The hell there are !" roared Cargan. "A man's 
word's his word, and he keeps it to me, or I know 
the reason why. You can't come down to the 
City Hall with any new deal like this. I v/as to 
have two hundred thousand. Why didn't I get 
it?" 

"Because," replied Hayden smoothly, "the — er 
^ — ^little favor you were to grant me in return is to 
be made useless by the courts." 

"Can I help that?" the mayor demanded. 
**Was there anything about that in the agree- 
ment? I did my work. I want my pay. I'll 
have it. Mister Hayden." 

Hayden's voice was cool and even as he spoke 
to Bland. 

"Got the money, Joe?" 

"Yes," Bland answered. 

"Where?" 

*'\Yell— we'd better wait, hadn't we?" Bland's 
yoice was shaky. 

"No. We'll take it and get out," answered 
Hayden. 

"I want to see you do it," cried Cargan. "If 



258 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

you think I've come up here on a pleasure trip, 
I got a chart and a pointer all ready for your 
next lesson. And let me put you wise — this 
nobby little idea of yours about Baldpate Inn is 
the worst ever. The place is as full of people 
as if the regular summer rates was being 
charged." 

"The devil it is!" cried Hayden. His voice 

betrayed a startled annoyance. 

"It hasn't worried me none," went on the 
mayor. "They can't touch me. I own the prose- 
cutor, and you know it. But it ain't going to do 
you any good on the avenue if you're seen here 
with me. Is it, Mr. Hayden?" 

"The more reason," replied Hayden, "for get- 
ting the money and leaving at once. I'm not 
afraid of you, Cargan. I'm armed." 

"I ain't," sneered the mayor. "But no ex- 
quisite from your set with his little air-gun ever 
scared me. You try to get away from here with 
that bundle and you'll find yourself all tangled 
up in the worst scrap that ever happened." 

"Where's the money, Joe?" asked Hayden. 



(( 



You won't wait — " Bland begged. 



THE EXQUISITE MR. HAYDEN 259 

"Wait to get my own money — I guess not. 
Show me where it is." 

"Remember," put in Cargan, "that money's 
mine. And don't have any pipe dreams about the 
law — the law ain't called into things of this sort 
as a rule. I guess you'd be the last to call it. 
You'll never get away from here with my 
money." 

Mr. Magee opened the card-room door far- 
ther, and saw the figure of the stranger Hayden 
confronting the mayor. Mr. Cargan's title of 
exquisite best described him. The newcomer 
was tall, fair, fastidious in dress and manner. A 
revolver gleamed in his hand. 

"Joe," he said firmly, "take me to that money 
at once." 

"It's out here," replied Bland. He and Hay- 
den disappeared through the dining-room door 
into the darkness. Cargan and Max followed 
close behind. 

Hot with excitement, Mr. Magee slipped from 
his place of concealment. A battle fit for the 
gods was in the air. He must be in the midst of 
it — perhaps again in a three-cornered fight it 



26o SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

would be the third party that would emerge vic- 
torious. 

In the darkness of the dining-room he bumped 
into a limp clinging figure. It proved to be the 
Hermit of Baldpate Mountain. 

"I got to talk to you, Mr. Magee," he whis- 
pered in a frightened tremolo. "I got to have a 
word with you this minute." 

"Not now," cried Magee, pushing him aside. 
"Later." 

The hermit wildly seized his arm. 

"No, now," he said. "There's strange goings- 
on, here, Mr. Magee. I got something to tell you 
— about a package of money I found in the 
kitchen." 

Mr. Magee stood very still. Beside him in the 
darkness he heard the hermit's excited breathing. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE SIGN OF THE OPEN WINDOW 

UNDECIDED, Mr. Magee looked toward 
the kitchen door, from behind which came 
the sound of men's voices. Then he smiled, 
turned and led Mr. Peters back into the office. 
The Hermit of Baldpate fairly trembled with 
news. 

"Since I broke in on you yesterday morning," 
he said in a low tone as he took a seat on the edge 
of a chair, "one thing has followed another so 
fast that I'm a little dazed. I can't just get the 
full meaning of it all." 

"You have nothing on me there, Peters," 
Magee answered. "I can't either." 

"Well," went on the hermit, "as I say, through 
all this downpour of people, including women, 
I've hung on to one idea. I'm working for you. 
You give me my wages. You're the boss. That's 

261 



iil 



<(^ 



262 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

why I feel I ought to give what information I 
got to you." 

"Yes, yes/' Mr. Magee agreed impatiently. 
"Go ahead." 

"Where you find women," Peters continued, 
"there you find things beyond understanding. 
History — " 

Get to the point." 

Well — yes. This afternoon I was looking 
round through the kitchen, sort of reconnoitering, 
you might say, and finding out what I have to 
work with, for just between us, when some of 
this bunch goes I'll easily be persuaded to come 
back and cook for you. I was hunting round in 
the big refrigerator with a candle, thinking may- 
be some little token of food had been left over 
from last summer's rush — something in a can 
that time can not wither nor custom stale, as the 
poet says — and away up on the top shelf, in the 
darkest corner, I found a little package." 

"Quick, Peters," cried Magee, "where is that 
package now?" 

"I'm coming to that," went on the hermit, not 
to be hurried. "What struck me first about the 



THE OPEN WINDOW 263 

thing was it didn't have any dust on it. *Aha/ I 
says, or words to that effect. I opened it. What 
do you think was in it?" 

"I don't have to think — I know," said Magee. 
"Money. In the name of heaven, Peters, tell 
me where you've got the thing." 

"Just a minute, Mr. Magee. Let me tell it 
my way. You're right. There was money in 
that package. Lots of it. Enough to found a 
university, or buy a woman's gowns for a year. 
I was examining it careful-like when a shadow 
came in the doorway. I looked up — '^ 

"Who?" asked Magee breathlessly. 

"That little blinky-eyed Professor Bolton was 
standing there, most owlish and interested. He 
came into the refrigerator. *That package you 
have in your hand, Peters,' he says, ^belongs to 
me. I put it in cold storage so it would keep. 
I'll take it now.' Well, Mr. Magee, I'm a peace- 
ful man. I could have battered that professor 
into a learned sort of jelly if I'd wanted to. But 
I'm a great admirer of Mr. Carnegie, on account 
of the library, and I go in for peace. I knew it 
wasn't exactly the thing, but — " 



'264 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"You gave him the package?" 

"That's hardly the way I would put it, Mr. 
Magee. I made no outcry or resistance when he 
took it. T'm just a cook/ I says, 'in this house. 
I ain't the trusted old family retainer that retains 
its fortunes like a safety deposit vault.' So I let 
go the bundle. It was weak of me, I know, but 
I sort of got the habit of giving up m.oney, being 
married so many years." 

"Peters," said Mr. Magee, "I'm sorry your 
grip was so insecure, but I'm mighty glad you 
came to me with this matter." 

"He told me I wasn't to mention it to any- 
body," replied the hermit, "but as I say, I sort 
of look on it that we were here first, and if our 
guests get to chasing untold wealth up and down 
the place, we ought to let each other in on it." 

"Correct," ansvv^ered Magee. "You are a val- 
uable man, Peters. I want you to know that I 
appreciate the way you have acted in this affair.'* 
Four shadowy figures tramped in through the 
dining-room door. "I should say," he continued, 
"that the menu you propose for dinner will 
prove most gratifying." 



THE OPEN WINDOW 265 

''What — oh — ^yes, sir," said Peters. "Is that 
all?" 

"Quite," smiled Magee. "Unless — just a min- 
ute, this may concern you — on my word, there's 
another new face at Baldpate." 

He stood up, and in the light of the fire met 
Hayden. Now he saw that the face of the latest 
comer was scheming and weak, and that under 
a small blond mustache a very cruel mouth 
sought to hide. The stranger gazed at Magee 
with an annoyance plainly marked. 

"A friend of mine — Mr. — er — Downs, Mr. 
Magee," muttered Bland. 

"Oh, come now," smiled Magee. "Let's tell 
our real names. I heard you greeting your friend 
a minute ago. How are you, Mr. Hayden?" 

He held out his hand. Hayden looked him 
angrily in the eyes. 

"Who the devil are you?" he asked. 

"Do you mean," said Magee, "that you didn't 
catch the name. It's Magee — William Hallowell 
Magee. I hold a record hereabouts, Mr. Hayden. 
I spent nearly an hour at Baldpate Inn — alone. 
You see, I was the first of our amiable little party 



til 



266 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

to arrive. Let me make you welcome. Are you 
staying to dinner ? You must." 
'I'm not," growled Hayden. 
'Don't believe him, Mr. Magee," sneered the 
mayor, "he doesn't always say what he means. 
He's going to stay, all right." 

"Yes, you'd better, Mr. Hayden," advised 
Bland. 

"Huh — delighted, I'm sure," snapped Hayden, 
He strolled over to the wall, and in the light of 
the fire examined a picture nonchalantly. 

"The pride of our inn," Mr. Magee, follow- 
ing, explained pleasantly, "the admiral. It is 
within these very walls in summer that he plays 
his famous game of solitaire." 

Hayden wheeled quickly, and looked Magee in 
the eyes. A flush crossed his face, leaving it 
paler than before. He turned away without 
speaking. 

"Peters," said Magee, "you heard what 
Mr. Hayden said. An extra plate at dinner, 
please. I must leave you for a moment, gentle- 
men." He saw that their eyes followed him 



THE OPEN WINDOW 267 

eagerly — full of suspicion, menacing. "We shall 
all meet again, very shortly." 

Hayden slipped quickly between Magee and 
the stairs. The latter faced him smilingly, re- 
flecting as he did so that he could love this man 
but little. 

"Who are you?" said Hayden again, "What 
is your business here?" 

Magee laughed outright, and turned to the 
other men. 

"How unfortunate," he said, "this gentleman 
does not know the manners and customs of Bald- 
pate in winter. Those are questions, Mr. Hay- 
den, that we are never impolite enough to ask of 
one another up here." He moved on toward the 
stairs, and reluctantly Hayden got out of his 
(path. "I am very happy," he added, "that you 
'are to be with us at dinner. It will not take you 
long to accustom yourself to our ways, I'm sure." 

He ran up the stairs and passed through num- 
ber seven out upon the balcony. Trudging 
through the snow, he soon sighted the room of 
Professor Bolton. And as he did so, a little 



268 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

shiver that was not due to atmospheric conditions 
ran down his spine. For one of the professor's 
windows stood wide open, bidding a welcome to 
the mountain storm. Peters had spoken the truth. 
Once more that tight Httle, right Httle package 
was within Mr. Magee's ken. 

He stepped through the open window, and 
closed it after him. By the table sat Professor 
Bolton, wrapped in coats and blankets, reading 
by the light of a solitary candle. The book was 
held almost touching his nose — a reminder of the 
spectacles that were gone. As Magee entered 
the old man looked up, and a very obvious ex- 
pression of fright crossed his face. 

"Good evening. Professor," said Magee easily. 
"Don't you find it rather cool with the window 
open ?" 

"Mr. Magee," replied the much wrapped gen- 
tleman, "I am that rather disturbing progressive 
— a fresh air devotee. I feel that God's good air 
was meant to be breathed, not barricaded from 
our bodies." 

"Perhaps," suggested Magee, "I should have 
left the window open ?" 



THE OPEN WINDOW 269 

The old man regarded him narrowly. 

"I have no wish to be inhospitable, " he replied. 
''But — if you please — " 

"Certainly," answered Magee. He threw open 
the window. The professor held, up his book. 

"I was passing the time before dinner with my 
pleasant old companion, Montaigne. Mr. Magee, 
have you ever read his essay on liars?" 

"Never," said Magee. "But I do not blame 
you for brushing up on it at the present time, 
Professor. I have come to apologize. Yester- 
day morning I referred in a rather unpleasant 
way to a murder in the chemical laboratory at 
one of our universities. I said that the professor 
of chemistry was missing. This morning^s pa- 
per, which I secured from Mr. Peters, informs me 
that he has been apprehended." 

"You need not have troubled to tell me," said 
the old man. He smiled his bleak smile. 

"I did you an injustice," went on Magee. 

"Let us say no more of it," pleaded Professor 
Bolton. 

Mr. Magee walked about the room. Warily 
the professor turned so that the other was at no 



270 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

instant at his back. He looked so helpless, so 
little, so ineffectual, that Mr. Magee abandoned 
his first plan of leaping upon him there in the 
silence. By more subtle means than this must his 
purpose be attained. 

"I suppose," he said, "your love of fresh air 
accounts for the strolls on the balcony at all 
hours of the night?" 

The old man merely blinked at him. 

"I mustn't stop,'' Magee continued. "I just 
wanted to make my apology, that's all. It was 
unjust of me. Murder — that is hardly in your 
line. By the way, were you by any chance in my 
room this morning, Professor Bolton?" 

Silence. 

"Pardon me," remarked the professor at last, 
"if I do not answer. In this very essay on — on 
liars, Montaigne has expressed it so well. 'And 
how much is a false speech less sociable than 
silence.' I am a sociable man." 

"Of course," smiled Magee. He stood look- 
ing down at the frail old scholar before him, and 
considered. Of what avail a scuffle there in that 
chill room? The package was no doubt safely 



THE OPEN WINDOW 2^t 

hidden in a corner he could not quickly find. No, 
he must wait, and watch. 

"Good-by, until dinner," he said, "and may you 
find much in your wise companion's book to jus- 
tify your conduct." 

He went out through the open window, and in 
another moment stood just outside Miss Nor- 
ton's room. She put a startled head out at his 
knock. 

"Oh, it's you," she said. "I can't invite you 
in. You might learn terrible secrets of the dress- 
ing-table — mamma is bedecking herself for din- 
ner. Has anything happened ?" 

"Throw something over your head, Juliet," 
smiled Magee, "the balcony is waiting for you." 

She was at his side in a moment, and they 
[walked briskly along the shadowy white floor. 

"I know who has the money," said Magee 
softly. "Simply through a turn of luck, I know. 
I realize that my protestations of what I am go- 
ing to do have bored you. But it looks very 
much to me as if that package would be in your 
hands very soon." 

She did not reply. 



272 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"And when I have got it, and have given it to 
you — if I do/' he continued, "what then?" 

"Then," she answered, "I must go away-^ 
very quickly. And no one must know, or they; 
will try to stop me." 

"And after that?" 

"The deluge," she laughed without mirth. 

Up above them the great trees of Baldpate 
Mountain waved their black arms constantly as 
though sparring with the storm. At the foot of 
the buried roadway they could see the lamps of 
Upper Asquewan Falls; under those lamps pro- 
saic citizens were hurrying home with the supper 
groceries through the night. And not one of 
those citizens was within miles of guessing that 
up on the balcony of Baldpate Inn a young man 
had seized a young woman's hand, and was say- 
ing wildly: "Beautiful girl — I love you." 

Yet that was exactly what Billy Magee was 
doing. The girl had turned her face away. 

"You've known me just two days," she said. 

"If I can care this much in two days," he said, 
"think — but that's old, isn't it? Sometime soon 
I'm going to say to you: *Whose girl are you?' 



THE OPEN WINDOW 273 

and youVe going to loolc up at me with a lit- 
tle heaven for two in your eyes and say: ^Fm 
Billy Magee's girl.' So before we go any further 
I must confess everything — I must tell you who 
this Billy Magee is — this man you're going to 
admit you belong to, my dear." 

"You read the future glibly," she replied. "Are 
your prophecies true, I wonder?" 

"Absolutely. Some time ago — on my soul, it 
was only yesterday — I asked if you had read a 
certain novel called The Lost Limousine, and 
you said you had, and that — it wasn't sincere. 
Well, I wrote it—" 
'Oh !" cried the girl. 

'Yes," said Magee, "and I've done others like 
it. Oh, yes, my muse has been a nouveau riche 
lady in a Worth gown, my ambition a big red 
motor-car. I've been a 'scramble a cent, mister' 
troubadour beckoning from the book-stalls. It 
was good fun writing those things, and it 
brought me more money than was good 
for me. I'm not ashamed of them; they 
were all right as a beginning in the game. 
But the other day — I thought an advertisement 



id 



(c 



274 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

did the trick — I turned tired of that sort, and I 
decided to try the other kind — ^the real kind. I 
thought it was an advertisement that did it — ^but 
I see now it was because you were just a few 
days away." 

"Don't tell me," whispered the girl, "that you 
came up here to — ^to — " 

"Yes," smiled Magee, "I came up here to for- 
get forever the world's giddy melodrama, the 
wild chase for money through deserted rooms, 
shots in the night, cupid in the middle distance. 
I came here to do — literature — if it's in me to 
do it." 

The girl leaned limply against the side of Bald- 
pate Inn. 

"Oh, the irony of it !" she cried. 

"I know," he said, "it's ridiculous. I think all 
this is meant just for — ^temptation. I shall be 
firm. I'll remember your parable of the blind 
girl — and the lamp that was not lighted. I'll do 
the real stuff. So that when you say — as you 
certainly must some day — -T'm Billy Magee's 
girl' you can say it proudly." 

T'm sure," she said softly, "that if I ever do 



<<T>, 



THE OPEN WINDOW 275 

say it — oH, no, I didn't say I would" — for he had 
seized her hands quickly — "if I ever do say it — it 
will certainly be proudly. But now — you don't 
even know my name — my right one. You don't 
know what I do, nor where I come from, nor 
what I want with this disgusting bundle of 
money. I sort of feel, you know — that this is In 
the air at Baldpate, even in the winter time. No 
sooner have the men come than they begin to talk 
of — love — to whatever girls they find here — on 
this veiy balcony — down there under the trees. 
And the girls listen, for — it's in the air, that's all. 
Then autumn comes, and everybody laughs, and 
forgets. May not our autumn come — when I 
go away ?" 

"Never," cried Magee. "This is no summer 
hotel affair to me. It's a real in winter and 
summer love, my dear — in spring and fall — and 
when you go away, I'm going too, about ten feet 
behind." 

"Yes," she laughed, "they talk that way at 
Baldpate — the last weeks of summer. It's part 
of the game." They had come to the side of the 
hotel on which was the annex, and the girl 



2^6 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

stopped and pointed. "Look!" she whispered 
breathlessly. 

In a window of the annex had appeared for a 
moment a flickering yellow light. But only for a 
moment. 

"I know," said Mr. Magee. "There's some- 
body in there. But that isn't important in com- 
parison. This is no summer affair, dear. Look 
to the thermometer for proof. I love you. And 
when you go away, I shall follow." 

''And the book—" 

"I have found better inspiration than Bald- 
pate Inn." 

They walked along for a time in silence. 

"You forget," said the girl, "you only know 
who has the money." 

"I will get it," he answered confidently. 
"Something tells me I will. Until I do, I am 
content to say no more." 

"Good-by," said the girl. She stood in the 
window of her room, while a harsh voice called 
"That you, dearie?" from inside. "And I may 
add," she smiled, "that in my profession— -a fol- 
lowing is considered quite — desirable." 



<<^ 



tc\ 



THE OPEN WINDOW 277 

She disappeared, and Mr. Magee, after a few 
minutes in his room, descended again to the office. 
In the center of the room, EHjah Quimby and 
'Hayden stood face to face. 

What is it, Quimby?" asked Magee. 
'I just ran up to see how things were going," 
Quimby repHed, "and I find him here." 

"Our latest guest," smiled Magee. 

"I was just reminding Mr. Hayden," Quimby 
said, his teeth set, an angry light in his eyes, 
"that the last time we met he ordered me from 
his office. I told you, Mr. Magee, that the Su- 
burban Railway once promised to make use of 
my invention. Then Mr. Kendrick went away — • 
and this man took charge. When I came around 
to the offices again — he laughed at me. When I 
came the second time, he called me a loafer and 
ordered me out." 

He paused, and faced Hayden again. 
I "I've grown bitter, here on the mountain," he 
said, "as I've thought over what you and men 
like you said to me — as I've thought of what 
might have been — and what was — yes, I've 
grown pretty bitter. Time after time I've gone 



278 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

over In my mind that scene in your office. As 
I've sat here thinking you've come to mean to me 
all the crowd that made a fool of me. You've 
come to mean to me all the crowd that said *The 
public be damned' in m.y ear. I haven't ever for- 
got — how you ordered me out of your office." 

"Well?" asked Hayden. 

"And now," Ouimby went on, "I find you tres- 
passing in a hotel left In my care — the tables are 
turned. I ought to show you the door. I ought 
to put you out." 

"Try it," sneered Hayden. 

"No," answered Quimby, "I ain't going to do 
it. Maybe it's because I've grown timid, brood- 
ing over my failure. And maybe it's because I 
know who's got the seventh key." 

Hayden made no reply. No one stirred for a 
minute, and then Quimby moved away^ and went 
out through the dining-room door. 



CHAPTER XV 

TABLE TALK 

THE seventh key! Mr. Magee thrilled at 
the mention of it. So EHjah Quimby knew« 
the identity and the mission of the man who 
hid in the annex. Did any one else? Magee 
looked at the broad acreage of the mayor's face, 
at the ancient lemon of Max's, at Bland's, fright- 
ened and thoughtful, at Hayden's, concerned but 
smiling. Did any one else know? Ah, yes, of 
course. Down the stairs the professor of Com- 
parative Literature felt his way to food. 

"Is dinner ready?" he asked, peering about. 

The candles flickered weakly as they fought 
the stronger shadows; winter roared at the win- 
dows; somewhere above a door crashed shut 
Close to its final scene drew the drama at Bald- 
pate Inn. Mr. Magee knew it, he could not have 
told why. The others seemed to know it, too. In 
silence they waited while the hermit scurried 

279 



28o SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

along his dim way preparing the meal. In silence 
they sat while Miss Norton and her mother de- 
scended. Once there was a little flurry of inter- 
est when Miss Thornhill and Hayden met at the 
foot of the stairs. 

"Alyra!" Hayden cried. *'In heaven's name — 
what does this mean?'' 

"Unfortunately," said the girl, *T know — all 
it means." 

And Hayden fell back into the shadows. 

Finally the attitude of the hermit suggested 
that the dinner was ready. 

"I guess you might as well sit down," he re- 
marked. "It's all fixed, what there is to fix. 
This place don't need a cook, it needs a commis- 
sary department." 

"Peters," reproved Magee. "That's hardly 
courteous to our guests." 

"Living alone on the mountain," replied the 
hermit from the dining-room door, "you get to 
have such a high regard for the truth you can't 
put courtesy first. You want to, but you haven't 
the heart." 

The winter guests took their places at the table. 



TABLE TALK 281 

and the second December dinner at Baldpate Inn 
got under way. But not so genially as on the 
previous night did it progress. On the faces of 
those about him Mr. Magee noted worry and, 
suspicion; now and again menacing cold eyes 
were turned upon him ; evidently first in the 
thoughts of those at table was a little package 
rich in treasure; and evidently first in the 
thoughts of most of them, as the probable holder 
of that package, was Mr. Magee himself. Sev- 
eral times he looked up to find Max's cat-like 
eyes upon him, sinister and cruel behind the in- 
congruous gold-rimmed glasses; several times he 
saw Hayden's eyes, hostile and angry, seek his 
face. They were desperate; they would stop at 
nothing; Mr. Magee felt that as the drama drew 
to its close they saw^ him and him alone between 
them and their golden desires. 

"Before I came up here to be a hermit," re- 
marked Cargan contemporaneously with the re- 
moval of the soup, ''which I may say in passing 
I ain't been able to be with any success owing to 
the popularity of the sport on Baldpate Moun- 
tain, there was never any candles on the table 



282 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

where I et. No, sir. I left them to the people 
up on the avenue — to Mr. Hayden and his kind 
that like to work in dim surroundings — I was 
always strong for a bright light on my food. 
What I'm afraid of is that I'll get the habit up 
here, and will be wanting Charlie to set out a 
silver candelabrum with my lager. Candles'd be 
quite an innovation at Charlie's, wouldn't they, 
Lou ?" 

"Too swell for Charlie's," commented Mr. 
Max. "Except after closing hours. I've seen 
'em in use there then, but the idea wasn't glory 
and decoration." 

"I hope you don't dislike the candles, Mr. 
Cargan," remarked Miss Norton. "They add 
such a lot to the romance of the affair, don't you 
think? I'm terribly thrilled by all this. The rat- 
tling of the windows, and the flickering light — 
two lines of a poem keep running through my 
head : 

" 'My lord he followed after one who whispered 

in his ear — 
The weeping of the candles and the wind is all I 

hear.' 



TABLE TALK 283 

I don't know who the lord was, nor what he fol- 
lowed — perhaps the seventh key. But the weep- 
ing candles and the wind seem so romantic — ;and 
so like Baldpate Inn to-night." 

"If I had a daughter your age," commented 
Cargan, not unkindly, "she'd be at home reading 
Laura Jean Libbey by the fire, and not chasing 
after romance on a mountain." 

"That would be best for her, I'm sure," replied 
the girl sweetly. "For then she wouldn't be like- 
ly to find out things about her father that would 
prove disquieting." 

"Dearie!" cried Mrs. Norton. No one else 
spoke, but all looked at the mayor. He was bus- 
ily engaged with his food. Smiling his amuse- 
ment, Mr. Magee sought to direct the conversa- 
tion into less personal channels. 

"We hear so much about romance, especially 
since its widely advertised death," he said. "And 
to every man I ever met, it meant something dif- 
ferent, Mr. Cargan, speaking as a broad-minded 
man of the. world — what does romance mean to 
you?" 



284 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

The mayor ran his fingers through his graying 
hair, and considered seriously. 

"Romance," he reflected. "Well, I ain't much 
on the talk out of books. But here's what I 
see when you say that word to me. It's the night 
before election, and I'm standing in the front 
window of the little room on Main Street where 
the boys can always find me. Down the street I 
hear the snarl and rumble of bands, and pretty 
soon I see the yellow flicker of torches, like the 
flicker of that candle, and the bobbing of banners. 
And then — the boys march by. All the boys! 
Pat Doherty, and Bob Larsen, and Matt Sanders 
— all the boys! And when they get to my win- 
dow they wave their hats and cheer. Just a fat 
old man in that window, but they'll go to the 
pavement with any guy that knocks him. 
They're loyal. They're for me. And so they 
march by — cheering and singing — all the boys — 
just for me to see and hear. Well — that — that's 
romance to me." 

Tower," translated Mr. Magee. 

'Yes, sir," cried the mayor. "I know I've got 



iC 



((^ 



TABLE TALK 265 

them. All the reformers in the world can't spoil 
my thrill then. They're mine. I guess old Na- 
poleon knew that thrill. I guess he was the great- 
est romancer the world ever knew. When he 
marched over the mountains with his starving 
bunch — and looked back and saw them in rags 
and suffering — for him — well I reckon old Nap 
was as close to romance then as any man ever 
gets." 

''I wonder," answered Mr. Magee. It came to 
him suddenly that in each person's definition of 
this intangible thing might lie exposed something 
of both character and calling. At the far end of 
the table Mrs. Norton's lined tired face met his 
gaze. To her he put his question. 

"Well," she answered, and her voice seemed 
softer than its wont, "I ain't thought much of that 
word for a good many years now. But when I 
do — say, I seem to see myself sitting on ouf 
porch back home — thirty years ago. I've got on 
a simple little muslin dress, and I'm slender as 
Elsie Janis, and the color in my cheeks is — well, 
it's the sort that Norton likes. And my hair — * 
but — I'm thinking of him, of Norton. He's told 



286 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

me he wants to make me happy for life, and I've 
about decided I'll let him try. I see him — com- 
ing up our front walk. Coming to call on me — 
have I mentioned I've got a figure — a real sweet 
figure? That's about what romance means to 
me." 

"Youth, dear?" asks Miss Norton gently. 

"That's it, dearie," answered the older woman 
dreamily. "Youth." 

For a time those about the table sat in silence, 
picturing no doubt the slender figure on the steps 
of that porch long ago. Not without a humorous 
sort of pity did they glance occasionally toward 
the woman whom Norton had begged to make 
happy. The professor of Comparative Litera- 
ture was the first to break the silence. 

The dictionary," he remarked academically, 
would define romance as a species of fictitious 
writing originally composed in the Romance dia- 
lects, and afterward in prose. But — the diction- 
ary is prosaic, it has no soul. Shall I tell you 
what romance means to me? I will. I see a 
man toiling in a dim laboratory, where there are 
strange fires and stranger odors. Night and day^ 






TABLE TALK 287 

he experiments, the love of his kind in his eyes, a 
desire to help in his heart. And then — the golden 
moment — the great moment in that quiet dreary 
cell — the moment of the discovery. A serum, a 
formula — what not. He gives it to the world, 
and a few of the sick are well again, and a few of 
the sorrowful are glad. Romance means neither 
youth nor power to me. It means — service." 

He bent his dim old eyes on his food, and Mr. 
Magee gazed at him with a new wonder. Odd 
sentiments these from an old man who robbed 
fireplaces, held up hermits, and engaged in mid- 
night conferences by the annex door. More than 
ever Magee was baffled, enthralled, amused. Now 
Mr. Max leered about the table and contributed 
his unsavory bit. 

"Funny, ain't it," he remarked, "the different 
things the same word means to a bunch of folks. 
Say romance to me, and I don't see no dim labo- 
ratory. I don't see nothing dim. I see the bright- 
est lights in the world, and the best food, and 
somebody, maybe, dancing the latest freak dance 
in between the tables. And an orchestra playing 
in the distance — classy dames all about — a taxi 



288 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

clicking at the door. And me sending word to 
the chauffeur 'Let her click till the milk carts 
rumble — I can pay.' Say — that sure is romance 
to me." 

''Mr. Hayden," remarked Magee, "are we to 
hear from you?" 

Hayden hesitated, and looked for a moment 
into the black eyes of Myra Thornhill. 

"My idea has often been contradicted," he 
said, keeping his gaze on the girl, "it may be 
again. But to me the greatest romance in the 
world is the romance of money making — dollar 
piling on dollar in the vaults of the man who 
started with a shoe-string, and hope, and nerve. 
I see him fighting for the first thousand — and 
then I see his pile growing, slowly at first — faster 
— faster — faster — until a motor-car brings him 
to his office, and men speak his name with awe 
in the streets." 

"Money," commented Miss Thornhill con- 
temptuously. "What an idea of romance for a 
man." 

"I did not expect," replied Hayden, "that my 
definition would pass unchallenged. My past ex- 



«< 



<<" 



TABLE TALK 289 

periences — " he looked meaningly at the girl — 
"had led me to be prepared for that But it is 
my definition — I spoke the truth. You must give 
me credit for that." 

''I ain't one to blame you," sneered Cargan, 
"^'for wanting it noticed when you do side-step a 
lie. Yes, I certainly — " 

See here, Cargan," blazed Hayden. 
Yes, you did speak the truth," put in Miss 
Thornhill hastily. "You mentioned one word 
in your definition — it was a desecration to drag 
it in — hope. For me romance means only — hope. 
And I'm afraid there are a pitiful number in the 
world to whom it means the same.'* 

"We ain't heard from the young woman who 
started all this fuss over a little word," Mr. Car- 
gan reminded them. 

"That's right, dearie," said Mrs. Norton. "You 
got to contribute." 

"Yes," agreed the girl with the "locks crisped 
like golden wire," "I will. But it's hard. One's 
ideas change so rapidly. A moment ago if you 
had said romance to me, I might have babbled of 
shady corners, of whisperings pn the stair, of 



290 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

walks down the mountain in the moonlight — or 
even on the hotel balcony." She smiled gaily 
at Magee. "Perhaps to-morrow, too, the word 
might mean such rapturous things to me. But to- 
night — life is too real and earnest to-night. Serv- 
ice — Professor Bolton was right — service is often 
romance. It may mean the discovery of a serum 
 — it may mean so cruel a thing as the blighting of 
another's life romance." She gazed steadily at 
the stolid Cargan. "It may mean putting an end 
forever to those picturesque parades past the win- 
dow of the little room on Main Street — the room 
where the boys can always find the mayor of 
Reuton." 

Still she gazed steadily into Cargan's eyes. And 
with an amused smile the mayor gazed back. 

"You wouldn't be so cruel as that," he assured 
her easily; '^a nice attractive girl like you." 

The dinner was at an end ; without a word the 
sly little professor rose from the table and hur- 
riedly ascended the stairs. Mr. Magee watched 
him disappear, and resolved to follow quickly on 
his heels. But first he paused to give his owr» 
version of the word under discussion. 



TABLE TALK 291 

''Strange," he remarked, *'that none of you 
gets the picture I do. Romance — it is here — at 
your feet in Baldpate Lm. A man climbs the 
mountain to be alone with his thoughts, to forget 
the melodrama of life, to get away from the 
swift action of the world, and meditate. He is 
alone — for very near an hour. Then a telephone 
bell tinkles, and a youth rises out of the dark to 
prate of a lost Arabella, and haberdashery. A 
shot rings out, as the immemorial custom with 
shots, and in comes a professor of Comparative 
Literature, with a perforation in his derby hat. 
A professional hermit arrives to teach the ama- 
teur the fine points of the game. A charming 
maid comes in — too late for breakfast — ^but in 
plenty of time for walks on the balcony in the 
moonlight. The mayor of a municipality conde- 
scends to stay for dinner. A battle in the snow 
ensues. There is a weird talk of- — a sum of 
money. More guests arrive. Dark hints of a 
seventh key. Why, bless you, you needn't stir 
from Baldpate Inn in search of your romance." 

He crossed the floor hastily, and put one foot 
on the lower step of Baldpate's grand stairway. 



292 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

fie kept it there. For from the shadows of the 
landing Professor Bolton emerged, his blasted 
derby once more on his head, his overcoat but- 
toned tight, his ear-muffs in place, his traveling- 
bag and green umbrella in tow. 

"What, Professor," cried Magee, "you're leav- 
mg? 

Now, truly, the end of the drama had come. 
Mr. Magee felt his heart beat wildly. What was 
the end to be? What did this calm departure 
mean ? Surely the little man descending the stair 
was not, Daniel-like, thrusting himself into this 
lion's den with the precious package in his pos- 
session? 

"Yes,^' the old man was saying slowly. "I am 
about to leave. The decision came suddenly. I 
am sorry to go. Certainly I have enjoyed these 
chance meetings." 

"See here, Doc," said Mr. Bland, uneasily feel- 
ing of his purple tie, "you're not going back and 
let them reporters have another fling at you ?" 

"1 fear I must," replied the old man. "My 
duty calls. Yes, they will hound me. I shall hear 
much of peroxide blondes. I shall be asked again 



TABLE TALK 293 

to name the ten greatest in history, — a difficult, 
not to say dangerous task. But I must face the 
— er — music, as the vulgar expression goes. I 
bid you good-by, Mr. Bland. We part friends, I 
am sure. Again be comforted by the thought 
that I do not hold the ruined derby against you. 
Even though, as I have remarked with unpleasant 
truth, the honorarium of a professor at our uni- 
versity is not large." 

He turned to Magee. 

"I regret more than I can say,'* he continued, 
"parting from you. My eyes fell upon you first 
on entering this place — we have had exciting 
times together. My dear Miss Norton — know- 
ing y^u has refreshed an old man's heart. I 
might compare you to another with yellow locks 
 — ^but I leave that to my younger — er — col- 
leagues. Mr. Cargan — good-by. My acquaint- 
ance with you I shall always look back on — " 

But the mayor of Reuton, Max and Bland 
closed in on the old man. 

"Now look here, Doc," interrupted Cargan. 
"You're bluffing. Do you get me? You're try- 
ing to put something over. I don't want to be 



294 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

rough — I like you — but I got to get a glimpse at 
the inside of that satchel. And I got to examine 
your personal make-up a bit." 

"Dear, dear,'' smiled Professor Bolton, "yots 
don't think I would steal? A man in my posi- 
tion? Absurd. Look through my poor luggage 
if you desire. You will find nothing but the 
usual appurtenances of travel." 

He stood docilely in the middle of the floor, and 
blinked at the group around him. 

Mr. Magee waited to hear no more. It was 
quite apparent that this wise little man carried 
no package wildly sought by Baldpate's winter 
guests. Quietly and quickly Magee disappeared 
up the broad stair, and tried the professor's door. 
It was locked. Inside he could hear a window 
banging back and forth in the storm. He ran 
through number seven and out upon the snow- 
covered balcony. 

There he bumped full into a shadowv figure 
hurrying in the opposite direction. 



CHAPTER XVI 

A MAN FROM THE DARK 

FOR fully five seconds Mr. Magee and the 
man with whom he had collided stood fac- 
ing each other on the balcony. The identical 
moon of the summer romances now hung in the 
sky, and in its white glare Baldpate Mountain 
glittered like a Christmas-card. Suddenly the 
wind broke a small branch from one of the near- 
by trees and tossed it lightly on the snow beside 
the two men — as though it were a signal for bat- 
tle. 

"A lucky chance," said Mr. Magee. "You're a 
man IVe been longing to meet. Especially since 
the professor left his window open this after- 
noon." 

"Indeed," replied the other calmly. "May I 
ask what you want of me?" 

"Certainly." Mr. Magee laughed. "A little 

295 



296 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

package. I think it's in your pocket at this min- 
ute. A package no bigger than a man's hand." 

The stranger made no reply, but looked quickly 
about, over his shoulder at the path along which 
he had come, and then past Mr. Magee at the 
road that led to freedom. 

"I think it's in your pocket," repeated Mr. 
Magee, "and I'm going to find out." 

'T haven't time to argue with you," said the 
holder of the seventh key. His voice was cold, 
calculating, harsh. "Get out of my way and let 
me pass. Or — " 

''Or what?" asked Billy Magee. 

He w^atched the man lunge toward him in the 
moonlight. He saw the fist that had the night 
before been the Waterloo of Mr. Max and the 
mayor start on a swift true course for his head. 
Quickly he dodged to one side and closed with 
his opponent. 

Back and forth through the snow they 
ploughed, panting, grappling, straining. Mr. 
Magee soon realized that his adversary was no 
weakling. He was forced to call into play mus- 
cles he had not used in what seemed ages — not 



A MAN FROM THE DARK 297 

since he sported of an afternoon in a rather 
odorous college gymnasium. In moonlight and 
shadow, up and down, they reeled, staggered, 
stumbled, the sole jarring notes in that picture of 
Baldpate on a quiet winter's night. 

"You queered the game last time," muttered 
the stranger. "But you'll never queer it again." 

Mr. Magee saved his breath. Together they 
crashed against the side of the inn. Together 
they squirmed away, across the balcony to the 
railing. Still back and forth, now in the moon- 
light, now in shadow, wildly they fought. 
Once Mr. Magee felt his feet slip from beneath 
him, but caught himself in time. His strength 
was going — surely — quickly. Then suddenly his 
opponent seemed to weaken in his grip. With a 
supreme effort Magee forced him down upon the 
balcony floor, and tumbled on top of him. He 
felt the chill of the snow under his knees, and its 
wetness in his cuffs. 

"Now," he cried to himself. 

The other still struggled desperately. But his 
struggle was without success. For deftly Billy 
Magee drew from his pocket the precious pack- 



298 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

age about which there had been so much debate 
on Baldpate Mountain. He clasped it close, rose . 
and ran. In another second he was inside num- 
ber seven, and had lighted a candle at the blazing 
logs. 

Once more he examined that closely packed lit- 
tle bundle; once more he found it rich in green- 
backs. Assuredly it was the greatly desired 
thing he had fought for the night before. He 
had it again. And this time, he told himself, he 
would not lose sight of it until he had placed it 
in the hands of the girl of the station. 

The dark shadow of the man he had just 
robbed was hovering at his windows. Magee 
turned hastily to the door. As he did so it op- 
ened, and Hayden entered. He carried a pistol in 
his hand; his face was hard, cruel, determined; 
his usually expressionless eyes lighted with pleas- 
ure as they fell on the package in Mr. Magee's 
possession. 

*Tt seems Fm just in time,'* he said, "to pre- 
vent highway robbery." 

"You think so?" asked Magee. 

"See here, young man," remarked Hayden, 



A MAN FROM THE DARK 299 

glancing nervously over his shoulder, **I can't 
v^aste any time in talk. Does that money belong 
to you? No. Well, it does belong to me. I'm 
going to have it. Don't think I'm afraid to shoot 
to get it. The law permits a man to fire on the 
thief v^ho tries to fleece him." 

"The law, did you say ?" laughed Billy Magee. 
"I wouldn't drag the law into this if I were you, 
Mr. Hayden. I'm sure it has no connection with 
events on Baldpate Mountain. You would be the 
last to want its attention to be directed here. I've 
got this money, and I'm going to keep it." 

Hayden considered a brief moment, and then 
swore under his breath. 

"You're right," he said. "Fm not going to 
shoot. But there are other ways, you whipper- 
snapper — " He dropped the revolver into his 
pocket and sprang forward. For the second time 
within ten minutes Mr. Magee steadied himself 
for conflict. 

But Hayden stopped. Some one had entered 
the room through the window behind Magee. In 
the dim light of the single candle Magee saw 
Hayden's face go white, his lip twitch, his eyes 



300 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

glaze with horrible surprise. His arms fell limp-- 
ly to his sides. 

"Good God ! Kendrick !" he cried. 

The voice of the man with whom Billy Magee 
had but a moment before struggled on the bal- 
cony answered: 

"Yes, Hayden. I'm back/' 

Hayden wet his lips with his tongue. 

"What — what brought you?" he asked, his 
voice trailing off weakly on the last word. 

"What brought me?" Suddenly, as from a 
volcano that had long been cold, fire blazed up in 
Kendrick's eyes. "If a man knew the road from 
hell back home, what would it need to bring him 
back ?" 

Hayden stood with his mouth partly open; al- 
most a grotesque picture of terror he looked in 
that dim light. Then he spoke, in an odd strained 
tone, more to himself than to any one else. 

"I thought you were dead," he said. "I told 
myself you'd never come back. Over and over — 
in the night — I told myself that. But all the time 
- — I knew — I knew you'd come." 

A cry — a woman's cry — sounded from just 



A MAN FROM THE DARK 3or 

outside the door of number seven. Into the room 
came Myra Thornhill; quickly she crossed and 
took Kendrick's hands in hers. 

"David," she sobbed. "Oh, David— is it a 
dream — a wonderful dream?" 

Kendrick looked into her eyes, sheepishly at 
first, then gladly as he saw what was in them. 
For the light there, under the tears, was such as 
no man could mistake. Magee saw it. Hayden 
saw it too, and his voice was even more lifeless 
when he spoke. 

"Forgive me, David," he said. "I didn^t 



mean — " 



And then, as he saw that Kendrick did not lis- 
ten, he turned and walked quietly into the bed- 
room of number seven, taking no notice of Car- 
gan and Bland, who, with the other winter guests 
of Baldpate, now crowded the doorway leading 
to the hall. Hayden closed the bedroom door. 
Mr. Magee and the others stood silent, v/onder- 
ing. Their answer came quickly — the sharp cry 
of a revolver behind that closed door. 

It was Mr. Magee who went into the bedroom. 
The moonlight streamed in through the low win- 



302 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

dows, and fell brightly on the bed. Across this 
Hayden lay. Mr. Magee made sure. It was not' 
a pleasant thing to make sure of. Then he took 
the revolver from the hand that still clasped it, 
covered the quiet figure on the bed, and stepped 
back into the outer room. 

"He — he has killed himself,'* he said in a low 
voice, closing the bedroom door behind him. 

There was a moment's frightened hush; then 
the voice of Kendrick rang out : 

"Killed himself? I don't understand. Why 
should he do that? Surely not because — no — " 
He looked questioningly into the white face of 
the girl at his side; she only shook her head. 
"Killed himself," he repeated, like a man wak- 
ened from sleep. "I don't understand." 

On tiptoe the amateur hermits of Baldpate 
descended to the hotel office. Mr. Magee saw the 
eyes of the girl of the station upon him, wide 
with doubt and alarm. While the others gathered 
in little groups and talked, he took her to one 
side. 

"When does the next train leave for Reuton?" 
he asked her. 



A MAN FROM THE DARK 303 

"In two hours — at ten-thirty," she replied. 

"You must be on it," he told her. "With you 
will go the two-hundred-thousand-dollar package. 
I have it in my pocket now." 

She took the news stolidly, and made no reply. 

"Are you afraid?" asked Magee gently. "You 
mustn't be. No harm can touch you. I shall stay 
here and see that no one follows." 

"I'm not afraid," she replied. "Just startled, 
that's all. Did he — did he do it because you took 
this money — because he was afraid of what 
would happen ?" 

"You mean Hayden?" Magee said. "No. This 
money was not concerned in — his death. That 
is an affair between Kendrick and him." 

"I see," answered the girl slowly. "I'm so 
glad it wasn't — the money. I couldn't bear it if 
it were." 

"May I call your attention," remarked Magee, 
to the fact that the long reign of T'm going to' is 
ended, and the rule of T've done it' has begun? 
I've actually got the money. Somehow, it doesn't 
seem to thrill you the way I thought it would." 

"But it does — oh, it does!" cried the girl. "I 



6( 



304 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

was upset — for a moment. It's glorious news. 
And with you on guard here, I'm not afraid to 
carry it away — down the mountain — and to Reu- 
ton. I'll be with you in a moment, ready for the 
journey." 

She called Mrs. Norton and the two went 
rather timidly up-stairs together. Mr. Magee 
turned to his companions in the room, and men- 
tally called tlieir roll. They were all there, the 
professor, the mayor, Max, Bland, Peters, Miss 
Thornhill, and the newcomer Kendrick, a man 
prematurely old, grayed at the temples, and with 
a face yellowed by fever. He and the professor 
were talking earnestly together, and now the old 
man came and stood before Magee. 

"Mr. Magee," he said seriously, "I learn from 
Kendrick that you have in your possession a cer- 
tain package of money that has been much buf- 
feted about here at Baldpate Inn. Now I suggest 
— -no, I demand — " 

"Pardon me. Professor," Mr. Magee inter- 
rupted. "I have something to suggest — even to 
demand. It is that you, and every one else pres- 



A MAN FROM THE DARK 305 

ent, select a chair and sit down. I suggest, 
though I do not demand, that you pick comforta- 
ble chairs. For the vigil that you are about to 
begin will prove a long one." 

**Wliat d'you mean?" asked the mayor of Reu- 
ton, coming militantly to Professor Bolton's side. 

Magee did not reply. Miss Norton and her 
mother came down the stair, the former wrapped 
in a great coat. She stood on the bottom step, 
her cheeks flushed, her eyes ablaze. Mr. Magee, 
going to her side, reflected that she looked 
charming and wonderful, and wished he had time 
to admire. But he hadn't. He took from one 
pocket the pistol he had removed from the hand 
of Hayden; from the other the celebrated pack- 
age of money. 

"I warn you all," he said, "I will shoot any one 
who makes a move for this bundle. Miss Norton 
is going to take it away with her — she is to catch 
the ten-thirty train for Reuton. The train ar- 
rives at its destination at twelve. Much as it 
pains me to say it, no one will leave this room 
before twelve-fifteen." 



3o6 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 



"You — crook !" roared Cargan. 

Mr. Magee smiled as he put the package in the 
girl's hand. 

"Possibly," he said. "But, Mr. Cargan, the 
blackness of the kettle always has annoyed the 
pot. Do not be afraid," he added to the girl. "Ev- 
ery gentleman in this room is to spend the evening 
with me. You will not be annoyed in any way." 
He looked around the menacing circle. "Go," he 
said, "and may the gods of the mountain take 
care of you." 

The little professor of Comparative Literature 
sitepped forward and stood pompously before 
Magee. 

**One moment," he remarked. "Before you 
steal this money in front of our very eyes, I want 
to inform you who I am, and who I represent 
here." 

"This is no time," replied Magee, "for light 
talk on the subject of blondes." 

"This is the time," said the professor warmly, 
"for me to tell you that Mr. Kendrick here and 
myself represent at Baldpate Inn the prosecuting 
attorney of Reuton county. We — '* 



A MAN FROM THE DARK 307 

Cargan, big, red, volcanic, interrupted. 

"Drayton," he bellowed. "Drayton sent you 
here? The rat! The pup! Why, I made that 
kid. I put him where he is. He won't dare 
touch me.'* 

"Won't he?" returned Professor Bolton. "My 
dear sir, you are mistaken. Drayton fully in- 
tends to prosecute you on the ground that you ar- 
ranged to pass Ordinance Number 45, granting 
the Suburban Railway the privilege of merging 
with the Civic, in exchange for this bribe of two 
hundred thousand dollars." 

^He won't dare," cried Cargan. "I made him." 

'Before election," said the professor, "I be- 
lieve he often insisted to you that he would do his 
duty as he saw it." 

"Of course he did," replied Cargan. "But 
that's what they all say." 

"He intends to keep his word." 

The mayor of Reuton slid into the shadows. 

"To think he'd do this thing to me," he whined. 
"After all I've done for him." 

"As I was saying, Mr. Magee," continued the 
professor, "Mr. Kendrick and I came up here to 



i('i 



ti^ 



3o8 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

secure this package of money as evidence against 
Cargan and — the man above. I speak with the 
voice of the law when I say you must turn this 
money over to me." 

For answer Magee smiled at the girl. 

"You'd better go now," he said. "It's a long 
walk down the mountain." 

"You refuse?" cried the professor. 

"Absolutely — don't we. Miss Norton?" said 
Magee. 

"Absolutely," she repeated bravely. 

"Then, sir," announced the old man crush- 
ingly, "you are little better than a thief, and this 
girl is your accomplice." 

"So it must look, on the face of it," assented 
Magee. The girl moved to the big front door, 
and Magee, with his eyes still on the room, 
backed away until he stood beside her. He handed 
her his key. 

"I give you," he said, "to the gods of the 
mountain. But it's only a loan — I shall surely 
want you back. I can't follow ten feet behind, 
as I threatened — it will be ten hours instead. 
Good night, and good luck." 



A MAN FROM THE DARK 309 

She turned the key in the lock. 

"Billy Magee," she whispered, "yours is a faith 
beyond understanding. 'I shall tell the gods of 
the mountain that I am to be — returned. Good 
'night, you — dear.'' 

She went out quickly, and Magee, locking the 
door after her, thrust the key into his pocket. 
For a moment no one stirred. Then Mr. Max 
leaped up and ran through the flickering light to 
the nearest window. 

There was a flash, a report, and Max came 
back into the firelight examining a torn trousers 
leg. 

"I don't mean to kill anybody," explained Mr. 
Magee. "Just to wing them. But I'm not an ex- 
pert — I might shoot higher than I intend. So I 
suggest that no one else try a break for it." 

"Mr. Magee," said Miss Thornhill, "I don't 
believe you have the slightest idea who that girl 
is, nor what she wants with the money." 

"That," he replied, "makes it all the more ex- 
citing, don't you think?" 

"Do you mean — " the professor exploded, 
"you don't know her? Well, you young fool." 



3IO SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"It's rather fine of you," remarked Miss 
Thornhlll. 

"It's asinine, if it's true," the professor voiced 
the other side of it. 

"You have said yourself — or at least you claim 
to have said — " Mr. Magee reminded him, "one 
girl like that is worth a million suffragettes." 

"And can make just as much trouble," com- 
plained Professor Bolton. "I shall certainly see 
to it that the hermit's book has an honored place 
in our college library." 

Out of the big chair into which he had sunk 
came the wail of the uncomprehending Cargan: 

"He's done this thing to me — after all I've 
done for him." 

"I hope every one is quite comfortable," re- 
marked Mr. Magee, selecting a seat facing the 
crowd. "It's to be a long wait, you know." 

There was no answer. The wind roared lustily 
at the windows. The firelight flickered redly on 
the faces of Mr. Magee's prisoners. 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 

IN Upper Asquewan Falls the clock on the old 
town hall struck nine. Mr. Magee, on guard 
in Baldpate's dreary office, counted the strokes. 
She must be half-way down the mountain now — 
perhaps at this very moment she heard Quimby's 
ancient gate creaking in the wind. He could al- 
most see her as she tramped along through the 
snow, the lovely heroine of the most romantic 
walk of all romantic walks on Baldpate to date. 
Half-way to the waiting-room where she had 
wept so bitterly; half-way to the curious station 
agent with the mop of ginger hair. To-night 
there would be no need of a troubadour to im- 
plore "Weep no more, my lady". William Hal- 
lowell Magee had removed the cause for tears. 

It was a long vigil he had begun, but there was 
no boredom in it for Billy Magee. He was too 

311 



'312 SEVEN KEYS TQ BALDPATE 

great a lover of contrast for that. As he looked 
around on the ill-assorted group he guarded, he 
compared them with the happier people of the 
inn's summer nights, about whom the girl had 
told him. Instead of these surly or sad folk sit- 
ting glumly under the pistol of romantic youth, 
he saw maids garbed in the magic of muslin flit 
through the shadows. Lights glowed softly; a 
waltz came up from the casino on the breath of 
the summer breeze. Under the red and white 
awnings youth and joy and love had their day — 
or their night. The hermit was on hand with his 
postal-carded romance. The trees gossiped in 
whispers on the mountain. 

And, too, the rocking-chair fleet gossiped in 
whispers on the veranda, pausing only when the 
admiral sailed by in his glory. Eagerly it ran 
down its game. This girl — this Myra Thornhill 
— ^he remembered, had herself been a victim. 
After Kendrick disappeared she had come there 
no more, for there were ugly rumors of the man 
who had fled. Mr. Magee saw the girl and her 
long-absent lover whispering together in the fire- 
light; he wondered if they, too, imagined them- 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 313 

selves at Baldpate 111 the summer; if they heard 
the waltz in the casino, and the laughter of men 
in the grill-room. 

Ten o'clock, said the town hall pompously. She 
was at the station now. In the room of her tears 
she was waiting ; perhaps her only companion the 
jacky of the **See the World" poster, whose garb 
was but a shade bluer than her eyes. Who was 
she? What was the bribe money of the Subur- 
ban Railway to her? Mr. Magee did not know, 
but he trusted her, and he was glad she had won 
through him. He saw Professor Bolton walk 
through the flickering half-light to join Myra 
Thornhill and Kendrick. 

; It must be half past by now. Yes — from far 
below in the valley came the whistle of a train. 
Now — she was boarding it. She and the money. 
Boarding it — for where? For what purpose? 
Again the train whistled. 

"The siege," remarked Mr. Magee, "is more 
than half over, ladies and gentlemen." 

The professor of Comparative Literature ap- 
proached him and took a chair at his side. 

"I want to talk with you, Mr. Magee/' he said. 



314 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 



<( 



A welcome diversion," assented Magee, his 
eyes still on the room. 

I "I have discussed matters w^ith Miss Thorn- 
ihill," said the professor in a low voice. "She has 
convinced me that in this affair you have acted 
from a wholly disinterested point of view. A 
mistaken idea of chivalry, perhaps. The infat- 
uation of the moment for a pretty face — a thing 
to which all men with red blood in their veins are 
susceptible — a pleasant thing that I would be the 
last to want banished from the world." 

''Miss Thornhill," replied Billy Magee, "has 
sized up the situation perfectly — except for one 
rather important detail. It is not the infatuation 
of the moment. Professor. Say rather that of a 
lifetime." 

"Ah, yes," the old man returned. "Youth — 
how sure it always is of that. I do not deprecate 
the feeling. Once, long ago, I, too, had youth and 
faith. We will not dwell on that, however. Miss 
Thornhill assures me that Henry Bentley, the son 
of my friend John Bentley, esteems you highly. 
She asserts that you are in every respect, as far 
as her knowledge goes, an admirable young man. 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 315 

I feel sure that after calm contemplation you will 
see that what you have done is very unfortunate. 
The package of money which in a giddy moment 
you have given into a young lady's keeping is 
much desired by the authorities as evidence 
against a very corrupt political ring. I am cer- 
tain that when you know all the details you will 
be glad to return with me to Reuton and do all in 
your power to help us regain possession of that 
package." 

And now the town hall informed Mr. Magee 
that the hour was eleven. He pictured a train 
flying like a black shadow through the white 
night. Was she on it — safe? 

"Professor Bolton/' he said, "there couldn't 
possibly be any one anywhere more eager than 
I to learn all the details of this affair — to hear 
your real reason for coming to Baldpate Inn, and^ 
to have the peroxide-blond incident properly 
classified and given its niche in history. But let 
me tell you again my action of to-night was no 
mere madness of the moment. I shall stick to it 
through thick and thin. Now, about the blondes." 

"The blondes," repeated the professor dream- 



3i6 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

ily. "Ah, yes, I must make a small confession of 
guilt there. I did not come here to escape the re- 
sults of that indiscreet remark, but I really made it 
— about a year ago. Shall I ever forget ? Hardly 
— the newspapers and my wife won't let me. I 
can never again win a new honor, however digni- 
fied, without being referred to in print as the per- 
oxide-blond advocate. The thing has made me 
furious. However, I did not come to Baldpate 
Inn to avoid the results of a lying newspaper 
story, though many a time, a year ago, when I 
started to leave my house and saw the reporters 
camped on my door-step, I longed for the seclu- 
sion of some such spot as this. On the night 
when Mr. Kendrick and I climbed Baldpate 
Mountain, I remarked as much to him. And so it 
occurred to me that if I found any need of ex- 
planing my presence here, the blond incident 
would do very well. It was only — a white lie." 

"A blond one," corrected Mr. Magee. "I for- 
give you, Professor. And I'm mighty glad the 
incident really happened, despite the pain it 
caused you. For it in a way condones my own 
offense — and it makes you human, too." 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 317 

"If to err is human, it does/' agreed Professor 
Bolton. *'To begin with, I am a member of the 
faculty of the University of Reuton, situated, as 
you no doubt know, in the city of the same name. 
For a long time I have taken a quiet interest in 
our municipal politics. I have been up in arms 
— linguistic arms — against this odd character 
Cargan, who came from the slums to rule us with 
a rod of iron. Every one knows he is corrupt, 
that he is wealthy through the sale of privilege, 
that there is actually a fixed schedule of prices 
for favors in the way of city ordinances. I have 
often denounced him to my friends. Since I 
have met him — well, it is remarkable, is it not, 
the effect of personality on one's opinions? I 
expected to face a devil, with the usual appurte- 
nances. Instead I have found a human, rather' 
likable man. I can well understand now why it is 
that the mob follows him like sheep. However, 
that is neither here nor there. He is a crook, and 
must be punished — even though I do like him 
immensely." 

Mr. Magee smiled over to where the great bulk 
of Cargan slouched in a chair. 



31 8 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"He's a bully old scout," he remarked. 

"Even so," replied the professor, "his high- 
handed career of graft in Reuton must come to a 
speedy close. He is of a type fast vanishing 
through the awakening public conscience. And 
his career will end, I assure you, despite the fact 
that you, Mr. Magee, have seen fit to send our 
evidence scurrying through the night at the be- 
hest of a chit of a girl. I beg your pardon — I 
shall continue. Young Drayton, the new county 
prosecutor, was several years back a favorite 
pupil of mine. After he left law school he fell 
under the spell of the picturesque mayor of Reu- 
ton. Cargan liked him and he rose rapidly. Dray- 
ton had no thought of ever turning against his 
benefactor when he accepted the first favors, but 
later the open selling of men's souls began to dis- 
gust him. When Cargan offered him the place of 
prosecutor, a few months ago, Drayton assured 
him that he would keep his oath of office. The 
mayor laughed. Drayton insisted. Cargan had 
not yet met the man he could not handle. He 
gave Drayton the place." 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 319 

The old man leaned forward, and tapped 
Magee on the knee. 

"It was in me, remember," he went on, "that 
Drayton confided his resolve to serve the public. 
I was delighted at the news. A few weeks ago 
he infonned me his first opportunity was at hand. 
Through one of the men in his office he had 
learned that Hayden of the Suburban Electric 
was seeking to consolidate that road, which had 
fallen into partial disrepute under his manage- 
ment during the illness of Thornhill, the presi- 
dent, with the Civic. The consolidation would 
raise the value of the Suburban nearly two mil- 
lion dollars — at the public's expense. Hayden 
had seen Cargan. Cargan had drafted Ordinance 
Number 45, and informed Hayden that his price 
for passing it through the council would be the 
sum you have juggled in your possession on Bald- 
pate Mountain — two hundred thousand dollars." 

"A mere trifle," remarked Magee sarcastically.^ 

"So Cargan made Hayden see. Through long- 
experience in these matters the mayor has become 
careless. He is the thing above the law, if not 
the law itself. He would have had no fear in 



320 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

accepting this money on Main Street at midday. 
He had no fear when he came here and found he 
was being spied on. 

"But Hayden — there was the difficulty that be- 
gan the drama of Baldpate Inn. Hayden had 
few scruples, but as events to-night have well 
proved, Mr. Magee, he was a coward at heart. 
I do not know just why he lies on your bed 
up-stairs at this moment, a suicide — that is 
a matter between Kendrick and him, and one 
which Kendrick himself has not yet fathomed. 
As I say, Hayden was afraid of being caught 
Andy Rutter, manager of Baldpate Inn for the 
last few summers, is in some way mixed up in the 
Suburban. It v/as he who suggested to Hayden 
that an absolutely secluded spot for passing this 
large sum of money would be the inn. The 
idea appealed to Hayden. Cargan tried to laugh 
him out of it. The mayor did not relish the 
thought of a visit to Baldpate Mountain in the 
dead of winter, particularly as he considered such 
precautions unnecessary. But Hayden was firm ; 
this spot, he pointed out, was ideal, and the 
mayor at last laughingly gave in. The sum in- 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 321 
volved was well worth taking a little trouble to 



gain." 



Professor Bolton paused, and blinked his dim 
old eyes. 

''So the matter was arranged," he continued. 
"Mr. Bland, a clerk in Hayden's employ, was sent 
up here with the money, which he placed in the 
safe on the very night of our arrival. The safe 
had been left open by Rutter; Bland did not have 
the combination. He put the package inside, 
swung shut the door, and awaited the arrival of 
the mayor," 

*T was present," smiled Magee, "at the cere- 
mony you mention." 

"Yes? All these plans, as I have said, were 
known to Drayton. A few nights ago he came to 
me. He wanted to send an emissary to Baldpate 
— a man whom Cargan had never met — one who 
could perhaps keep up the pretense of being here 
for some other reason than a connection with the 
bribe. He asked me to undertake the mission, 
to see all I could, and if possible to secure the 
package of money. This last seemed hardly 



Z22 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

likely. At any rate, I was to gather all the evi- 
dence I could. I hesitated. My library fire never 
looked so alluring as on that night. Also, I was 
engaged in some very entertaining researches." 

"I beg your pardon ?" said Billy Magee. 

"Some very entertaining research work." 

"Yes," reflected Magee slowly, "I suppose 
such things do exist. Go on, please." 

"I had loudly proclaimed my championship of 
civic virtue, however, and here was a chance to 
serve Reuton. I acquiesced. The day I was to 
start up here, poor Kendrick came back. He, too, 
had been a student of mine; a friend of both 
Drayton and Hayden. Seven years ago he and 
Hayden were running the Suburban together, 
under Thornhill's direction. The two young men 
became mixed up in a rather shady business deal, 
which was more of Hayden's weaving than Ken- 
drick's. Hayden came to Kendrick with the 
story that they were about to be found out, and 
suggested that one assume the blame and go 
away. I am telling you all this in confidence as 
a friend of my friends, the Bentleys, and a young 
man whom I like and trust despite your momen- 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 2^22, 

tary madness in the matter of yellow locks — we 
are all susceptible. 

"Kendrick went. For seven years he stayed 
away, in an impossible tropic town, believing 
himself sought by the law, for so Hayden wrote 
him. Not long ago he discovered that the mat- 
ter in which he and Hayden had offended had 
never been disclosed after all. He hurried back 
to the states. You can imagine his bitterness. 
He had been engaged to Myra Thornhill, and the 
fact that Hayden was also in love with her may 
have had something to do with his treachery to 
his friend." 

Magee's eyes strayed to where the two victims 
of the dead man's falsehood whispered together 
in the shadows, and he wondered at the calmness 
w^ith which Kendrick had greeted Hayden in the 
room above. 

*'When Kendrick arrived," Professor Bolton 
went on, "first of all he consulted his old friend 
Drayton. Drayton informed him that he had 
nothing to fear should his misstep be made pub- 
lic, for in reality there was, at this late day, no 
crime committed in the eyes of the law. He also 



324 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

told Kendrick how matters stood, and of the net 
he was spreading for Hayden. He had some 
fears, he said, about sending a man of my years 
alone to Baldpate Inn. Kendrick begged for the 
chance to come, too. So, without making his re- 
turn known in Reuton, three nights ago he ac- 
companied me here. Three nights — it seems 
years. I had secured keys for us both from John 
Bentley. As we climbed the mountain, I noticed 
your light, and we agreed it would be best if only 
one of us revealed ourselves to the intruders in 
the inn. So Kendrick let himself in by a side 
door while I engaged you and Bland in the office. 
He spent the night on the third floor. In the 
morning I told the whole affair to Quimby, 
knowing his interest in both Hayden and Ken- 
drick, and secured for Kendrick the key to the 
annex. Almost as soon as I arrived — " 

"The curtain went up on the melodrama," sug- 
gested Mr. Magee. 

"You state it vividly and with truth," Profes- 
sor Bolton replied. "Night before last the ordi- 
nance numbered 45 was due to pass the council. 
It was arranged that when it did, Hayden, 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 325 

through his man Rutter, or personally, would 
telephone the combination of the safe to the 
mayor of Reuton. Cargan and Bland sat in the 
office watching for the flash of light at the tele- 
phone switchboard, while you and I were Max's 
prisoners above. Something went wrong. Hay- 
den heard that the courts would issue an injunc- 
tion making Ordinance Number 45 worthless. 
So, although the council obeyed Cargan's in- 
structions and passed the bill, Hayden refused to 
give the mayor the combination.'* 

The old man paused and shook his head won- 
deringly. 

"Then melodrama began in dead earnest," he 
continued. "I have always been a man of peace, 
and the wild scuffle that claimed me for one of 
its leading actors from that moment will remain 
in my memory as long as I live. Cargan dyna- 
mited the safe. Kendrick held him up; you held 
up Kendrick. I peeked through your window 
and saw you place the package of money under 
a brick in your fireplace — " 

"You — the curtains were down," interrupted 
Magee. 



326 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"I found a half-inch of open space," explained 
the old man. "Yes, I actually lay on my stomach 
in the snow and watched you. In the morning, 
for the first time in my life, I committed robbery. 
My punishment was swift and sure. Bland 
swooped down upon me. Again this afternoon, 
I came upon the precious package, after a long 
search, in the hands of the Hermit of Baldpate. 
I thought we were safe at last when I handed the 
package to Kendrick in my room to-night — but I 
had not counted on the wild things a youth like 
you will do for love of a designing maid." 

Twelve o'clock! The civic center of Upper 
Asquewan Falls proclaimed it. Mr. Magee had 
never been in Reuton. He was sorry he hadn't. 
He had to construct from imagination alone the 
jgreat Reuton station through which the girl and. 
the money must now be hurrying — where? The 
question would not down. Was she — as the pro- 
fessor believed — designing ? 

"No," said Mr. Magee, answering aloud his 
own question. "You are wrong, sir. I do not 
know just what the motives of Miss Norton 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 327 

were in desiring this money, but I will stake my 
reputation as an honest hold-up man that they 
were perfectly all right." 

"Perhaps," replied the other, quite uncon- 
vinced. "But — what honest motive could she 
have? I am able to assign her no role in this 
little drama. I have tried. I am able to see no 
connection between her and the other characters. 
What—" 

"Pardon me," broke In Magee. "But would 
you mind telling me why Miss Thornhill came up 
to Baldpate to join in the chase for the package ?" 

"Her motive," replied the professor, "does her 
great credit. For several years her father, Henry 
Thornhill, has been forced through illness to 
leave the management of the railway's affairs to 
his vice-president, Hayden. Late yesterday the 
old man heard of this proposed bribe — on his sick 
bed. He was very nearly insane at the thought of 
the disgrace it would bring upon him. He tried to 
rise himself and prevent the passing of the pack- 
age. His daughter — a brave loyal girl — herself 
undertook the task." 



328 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Then/' said Mr. Magee, "Miss Thornhill is 
not distressed at the loss of the most important 
evidence in the case." 

"I have explained the matter to her/* returned 
Professor Bolton. "There is no chance whatever 
that her father's name will be implicated. Both 
Drayton and myself have the highest regard for 
his integrity. The whole affair was arranged 
when he was too ill to dream of it. His good 
name will be smirched in no way. The only man 
involved on the giver's side is dead in the room 
above. The man we are after now is Cargan. 
Miss Thornhill has agreed that it is best to prose- 
cute. That eliminates her." 

"Did Miss Thornhill and Kendrick meet for 
the first time, after his exile, up-stairs — in num- 
ber seven ?" Mr. Magee wanted to know. 

"Yes," answered Professor Bolton. "In one 
of his letters long ago Hayden told Kendrick he 
was engaged to the girl. It was the last letter 
Kendrick received from him." 

There was a pause. 

"The important point now," the old man went 
on, "is the identity of this girl to whom you have 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 329 

made your princely gift, out of the goodness of 
your young heart. I propose to speak to the 
woman she has introduced as her mother, and 
elicit what information I can." 

He crossed the floor, followed by Mr. Magee, 
and stood by the woman^s chair. She looked up, 
her eyes heavy with sleep, her appearance more 
tawdry than ever in that faint light. 

"Madam," remarked the professor, with the 
air of a judge trying a case, "your daughter has 
to-night made her escape from this place with a 
large sum of money earnestly desired by the pros- 
ecuting attorney of Reuton county. In the name 
of the law, I command you to tell me her desti- 
nation, and what she proposes to do with that 
package of greenbacks." 

The woman blinked stupidly in the dusk. 

"She ain't my daughter," she replied, and Mr. 
Magee's heart leaped up. "I can tell you that 
much. I keep a boarding-house in Reuton and 
Miss — the girl you speak about — has been my 
boarder for three years. She brought me up here 
as a sort of chaperon, though I don't see as I'm 
old enough for that yet. You don't get nothing 



330 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

else out of me — except that she is a perfectly 
lovely young woman, and your money couldn't 
be safer v/ith the president of the United States." 

The puzzled professor of Comparative Litera- 
ture caressed his bald head thoughtfully. "I — er 
— " he remarked. Mr. Magee could have em- 
braced this faded woman for her news. He 
looked at his watch. It was twelve-twenty. 

"The siege is over/' he cried. "I shall not at- 
tempt to direct your actions any longer. Mr. 
Peters, will you please go down to the village and 
bring back Mr. Quimby and — the coroner?" 

"The coroner !" The mayor of Reuton jumped 
to his feet. "I don't want to be in on any inquest 
scene. Come on. Max, let's get out of here." 

Bland stood up, his face was white and wor- 
ried, his gay plumage no longer set the tone for 
his mood. 

"I think I'll go, too," he announced, looking 
hopefully at Magee. 

"I'm no longer your jailer," Magee said. 
"Professor, these gentlemen are your witnesses. 
Do you wish to detain them ?" 

"See here," cried the mayor angrily, "there 



THE PROFESSOR SUMS UP 331 

1 
ain't no question but that you can find me in Reu- 

ton any time you want me. At the little room on 

Main Street — anybody can tell you my hours —  

the door's always open to any reformer that has 

the nerve to climb the stairs. Look me up there. 

I'll make it interesting for you." 

"I certainly shall," the professor replied. "And 
very soon. Until then you may go when and 
where you please." 

"Thanks," sneered the mayor. "I'll expect 
you. I'll be ready. I've had to get ready to 
answer your kind before. You think you got me, 
eh? Well, you're a fool to think that. As for 
Drayton, the pup, the yellow-streaked pup — I'll 
talk to Mister Drayton when I get back to Reu- 
ton." 

"Before you go, Bland," remarked Magee,, 
'smiling, "I want to ask about Arabella. Where 
did you get her?" 

"Some of it happened to a friend of mine," 
the ex-haberdasher answered, "a friend that keeps 
a clothing store. I got this suit there. I changed 
the story, here and there. He didn't write her 
no note, though he thought seriously of it. And 



332 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

he didn't run away and hide. The last I seen of 
him he was testing the effect of the heart-balm on 
sale behind the swinging doors." 

Mr. Magee laughed, but over the long lean face 
of Bland not the ghost of a smile flitted. He 
was frightened, through and through. 

"You're a fine bunch," sneered Mr. Max. "Re- 
formers, eh? Well, you'll get what the rest of 
'em always got. We'll tie you up in knots and 
leave you on the door-step of some orphan asylum 
before we're through with you." 

"Come on, Lou," said Cargan. "Drayton's a 
smart guy, Doc. Where's his proof? Eloped 
with the bundle of dry goods this young man's 
taken a fancy to. And even if he had the money 
— I've been up against this many a time. You're 
wasting your talents. Doc. Good night! Come 
on, boys." 

The three stamped out through the dining- 
room, and from the window Mr. Magee watched 
them disappear down the road that stretched to 
Asquewan Falls. 



CHAPTER XVIII 



A RED CARD 



MR. MAGEE turned back from the win- 
dow to the dim interior of the hotel 
office. He who had come to Baldpate Inn to court 
loneliness had never felt so lonely in his life. 
For he had lost sight of her — in the great Reuton 
station of his imagination she had slipped from 
his dreams — to go where he could not follow, 
even in thought. He felt as he knew this great 
bare room must feel each fall when the last laugh 
died away down the mountain, and the gloom 
of winter descended from drab skies. 

Selecting a log of the hermit's cutting from 
the stock beside the hearth, Mr. Magee tossed it 
on the fire. There followed a shower of sparks 
and a flood of red light in the room. Through 
this light Kendrick advanced to Magee's side, and 
the first of the Baldpate hermits saw that the 

333 



334 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

man's face was lined by care, that his eyes were 
tired even under the new hght in them, that his 
mouth was twisted bitterly. 

*Toor devil," thought Magee. 

Kendrick drew up chairs for himself and Ma- 
gee, and they sat down. Behind them the bulky 
Mrs. Norton dozed, dreaming perhaps of her 
Reuton boarding-house, while Miss Thornhill 
and the professor talked intermittently in low 
tones. The ranks at Baldpate were thinning 
rapidly; before long the place must settle back 
with a sigh in the cold, to wait for its first sum- 
mer girl. 

"Mr. Magee," said Kendrick nervously, ''you 
have become involved in an unkind, a tragic 
story. I do not mean the affair of the bribe — 
I refer to the matter between Hayden and my- 
self. Before Peters comes back with — the men 
he went for — I should like to tell you some of 
the facts of that story." 

"If you had rather not — " began Magee. 

"No," replied Kendrick, "I prefer that you 
should know. It was you who took the pistol 
from — ^his hand. I do not believe that even I 



A RED CARD 335 

can tell you all that was in Hayden's mind when 
he went into that other room and closed the door. 
It seems to me preposterous that a man of his 
sort should take his life under the circumstances. 
I feel, somehow, that there is a part of the story 
even I do not know. But let that be." 

He bowed his head in his hands. 

"Ever since I came into this room," he went 
on, "the eyes of a pompous little man have been 
following me about. They have constantly re- 
called to me the nightmare of my life. You have 
noticed, no doubt, the pictures of the admiral 
that decorate these walls ?" 

"I have," replied Magee. He gazed curiously 
at the nearest of the portraits. How persistently 
this almost mythical starched man wove in and 
out of the melodrama at Baldpate Inn. 

"Well," continued Kendrick, "the admiral's 
eyes haunt me. Perhaps you know that he plays 
a game — a game of solitaire. I have good, rea- 
son to remember that game. It is a silly in- 
consequential game. You would scarcely believe 
that it once sent a man to hell." 

He stopped. 



336 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"I am beginning in the middle of my story/* 
he apologized. "Let me go back. Six years ago 
I was hardly the man you see now — I was at 
least twenty years younger. Hayden and I 
worked together in the office of the Suburban 
Railway. We had been close friends at college — 
I believed in him and trusted him, although I 
knew he had certain weaknesses. I was a happy 
man. I had risen rapidly, I was young, the 
future was lying golden before me — and I was 
engaged. The daughter of Henry Thomhill, 
our employer — the girl you have met here at 
Baldpate — had promised to be my wife. Hayden 
had also been a suitor, but when our engagement 
was announced he came to me like a man, and I 
thought his words were sincere. 

"One day Hayden told me of a chance w^e 
might take which would make us rich. It was 
not — altogether within the law. But it was the 
sort of thing that other men were doing con- 
stantly, and Hayden assured me that as he had 
arranged matters it was absolutely safe. My 
great sin is that I agreed we should take the 



A RED CARD 337 

chance — a sin for which I have paid, Mr. Magee, 
over and over." 

Again he paused, and gazed steadily at the fire. 
Again Magee noted the gray at his temples, the 
aftermath of fevers in his cheeks. 

"We — took the chance," he went on. "For a 
time everything went well. Then — one bluster- 
ing March night — Hayden came to me and told 
me we were certain to be caught. Some of his 
plans had gone awry. I trusted him fully at the 
time, you understand — he was the man with 
whom I had sat on the window-seat of my room 
at college, settling the question of immortality, 
and all the other great questions young men settle 
at such times. I have at this moment no doubt 
that he was quite truthful when he said we were 
in danger of arrest. We arranged to meet the 
next night at the Argots Club and decide on what 
we should do. 

"We met — in the library of the club. Hayden 
came in to me from the card-room adjoining, 
where he had been watching the admiral dodder- 
ing over his eternal game. The old man had be- 



338 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

come a fixture at the club, like Parker down at 
the door, or the great chandelier in the hall. No 
one paid any attention to him; when he tried to 
talk to the younger men about his game they fled 
as from a pestilence. Well, as I say, Hayden 
came to meet me, and just at that moment the ad- 
miral finished his game and went out. We were 
alone in the library. 

"Hayden told me he had thought the matter 
over carefully. There was nothing to do but to 
clear out of Reuton forever. But why, he argued, 
should we both go? Why wreck two lives? It 
would be far better, he told me, for one to as- 
sume the guilt of both and go away. I can see 
him now — how funny and white his face looked 
in that half -lighted room — how his hands trem- 
bled. I was far the calmer of the two. 

*T agreed to his plan. Hayden led the way into 
the room where the admiral had been playing. 
We went up to the table, over which the green- 
shaded light still burned. On it lay two decks of 
cards, face up. Hayden picked up the nearest 
deck, and shuffled it nervously. His face — God, 
it was like the snow out there on the mountain.'^ 



A RED CARD 339 

Kendrick closed his eyes, and Magee gazed at 
him in silent pity. 

"He held out the deck," went on the exile 
softly, "he told me to draw. He said if the card 
was black, he*d clear out. 'But if it's red, David,' 
he said, 'why — you — got to go/ I held my 
breath, and drew. It was a full minute before I 
dared look at the card in my hand. Then I 
turned it pver and it was — red — a measly little 
red two-spot. I don't suppose a man ever real- 
izes all at once what such a moment means. I 
remember that I was much cooler than Hayden. 
It was I who had to brace him up. I — I even 
tried to joke with him. But his face was like 
death. He hardly spoke at all at first, and then 
suddenly he became horribly talkative. I left 
him — talking wildly — I left Reuton. I left the 
girl to whom I was engaged." 

To break the silence that followed, Mr. Magee 
leaned forward and stirred the logs. 

"I don't want to bore you," Kendrick said, 
trying to smile. *T went to a little town in South 
America. There was no treaty of extradition 
there — nor anything else civilized and decent. I 



340 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

smoked cigarettes and drank what passed for 
rum, on the balcony of an impossible hotel, and 
otherwise groped about for the path that leads to 
the devil. After a year, I wrote to Hayden. He 
answered, urging me to stay away. He inti- 
mated that the thing we had done was on my 
shoulders. I was ashamed, frightfully unhappy. 
I didn't dare write to — her. I had disgraced her. 
I asked Hayden about her, and he wrote back 
that she was shortly to marry him. After that I 
didn't want to come back to Reuton. I wanted 
most — to die. 

"The years crept by on the balcony pf that 
impossible hotel. Six of them. The first in bit- 
ter memories, memories of a red card that danced 
fiendishly before my eyes when I closed them — 
the last in a fierce biting desire to come back to 
the world I had left. At last, a few months ago, 
I wrote to another college friend of mine, Dray- 
ton, and told him the whole story. I did not 
know that he had been elected prosecutor in Reu- 
ton. He answered with a kind pitying letter — 
and finally I knew the horrible truth. Nothing 
had ever happened. The thing we had done had 



A RED CARD 341 

never been discovered. Hayden had lied. He 
had even lied about his engagement to Myra 
Thornhill. There, he had made a reality out of 
what was simply his great desire. 

"You can imagine my feelings. Six years in 
a tomb, a comic opera sort of tomb, where a 
silly surf was forever pounding, and foolish palms 
kept waving. Six years — for nothing. Six 
years, while Hayden, guiltier than I, stayed be- 
hind to enjoy the good things of life, to plead for 
the girl whose lover he had banished. 

"I lost no time in coming north. Three days 
ago I entered Drayton's office. I was ready and 
willing that the wrong Hayden and I had done 
should be made public. Drayton informed me 
that legally there had been no crime, that Hayden 
had straightened things out in time, that we had 
defrauded no one. And he told me that for what- 
ever sin I had committed he thought I had more 
than atoned down there in that town that God 
forgot. I think I had. He explained to me about 
the trap he had laid for Hayden up here at Bald- 
pate Inn. I begged to help. What happened 
after, you know as well as I.'* 



342 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Yes, I think I do," agreed Mr. Magee softly. 

"I have told you the whole story," Kendrick 
replied, *'and yet it seems to me that still it is 
not all told. Why should Hayden have killed 
himself? He had lied to me, it is true, but life 
was always sweet to him, and it hardly seems to 
me that he was the sort to die simply because his 
falsehood was discovered. Was there some other 
act of cruelty — some side to the story of which 
we are none of us aware? I wonder." 

He was silent a moment. 

"Anyhow, I have told you all I know," he said. 
"Shall I tell it also to the coroner? Or shall we 
allow Hayden's suicide to pass as the result of his 
implication in this attempt at bribery? I ask 
your advice, Mr. Magee." 

"My advice," returned Magee, "is that you be- 
fuddle no pompous little village doctor with the 
complication of this unhappy tale. No, let the 
story be that Hayden killed himself as the toils 
closed in on him — the toils of the law that pun- 
ishes the bribe giver — now and then and oc- 
casionally. Mr. Kendrick, you have my deepest 
sympathy. Is it too much for me to hope"^he 



A RED CARD 343 

glanced across the room to where Myra Thorn- 
hill sat beside the professor — "that the best of 
your life is yet to come — that out of the wreck 
'this man made of it you may yet be happy ?" 

Kendrick smiled. 

"You are very kind," he said. "Twice we have 
met and battled in the snow, and I do not hold it 
against you that both times you were the victor. 
Life in a tropic town, Mr. Magee, is not exactly 
a muscle-building experience. Once I might have 
given the whole proceeding a different turn. Yes, 
Miss Thornhill has waited for me — all these years 
— waited, believing. It is a loyalty of which I 
can not speak without — you understand. She 
knows why I went away — why I stayed away. 
She is still ready to marry me. I shall go again 
into the Suburban office and try to lift the road 
from the muck into which it has fallen. Yes, 
.it is not too much for me to hope — and for 
you in your kindness — that a great happiness is 
still for me." 

"Believe me, Fm glad," replied Magee with 
youthful enthusiasm, holding out his hand. "I'm 
sorry I spoiled your little game up here, but — '* 



344 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"I understand," smiled Kendrick. '1 think 
none the less of you for what you have done. 
And who knows ? It may turn out to have been 
the wisest course after all." 

Ah, would it ? Mr. Magee walked to the win- 
dow, pondering on the odd tangle of events that 
had not yet been completely straightened out. 
Certainly her eyes were an honest blue as well 
as a beautiful — but who was she? Where was 
she? The great figure of Mrs. Norton stirred 
restlessly near at hand; the puffed lids of her 
eyes opened. 

"Mr. Magee," she said, when she had made 
out his figure by the window, "you've been a true 
'friend, as I might say, to a couple of mad fe- 
males who ought to have been at home by their 
own firesides, and I'm going to ask one more 
favor of you. Find out when the next train goes 
to Reuton, and see that I'm at the station an 
hour or two before it pulls out." 

"I'll do that, Mrs. Norton," smiled Magee. 
"By the way, is Norton the name?" 

"Yes," answered the woman, "that's my name. 
Of course, it ain't hers. I can't tell that." 



A RED CARD 345 

*'No matter/' said Mr. Magee, "she'll probably 
change it soon. Can't you tell me something 
about her — just a tiny bit of information. Just 
a picture of where she is now, and what she's 
doing with that small fortune I gave her.'* 

"Where is she now?" repeated Mrs. Norton. 
"She's home and in bed in my second floor front, 
unless she's gone clear crazy. And that's where 
I wish I was this minute — in bed — though it's a 
question in my mind if I'll ever be able to sleep 
again, what with the uproar and confusion my 
house is probably in by this time, leaving it in 
charge of a scatter-brained girl. Norton always 
used to say if you want a thing done right, do it 
yourself, and though he didn't always live up to 
the sentiment, letting me do most things he 
wanted done right, there was a lot of truth in his 
words. I certainly must get back to Reuton, just 
as quick as the railroad will take me." 

"Why did you come?" prodded Mr. Magee. 
"Why did you leave your house on this strange 
mission ?'* 

"The Lord knows," replied the woman. "I 
certainly never intended to, but she begged and 



346 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

pleaded, and the first thing I knew, I was on al 
train. She has winning ways, that girl — ^maybe 
you've noticed?" 

"I have," assented Billy Magee. 

"I thought so. No, Mr. Magee, I can't tell you 
nothing about her. I ain't allowed to — even you 
that has been so kind. She made me promise. 
'He'll know soon enough,' she kept saying. But 
I will tell you, as I told you before, there's no 
occasion to worry about her — unless you was to 
tliink was she held up and murdered with all 
that money on her, the brave little dear. If 
you was considering offering yourself for the job 
of changing her name, Mr. Magee, I say go in 
and do it. It sure is time she settled down and 
gave up this — this — gave it all up before some- 
thing awful happens to her. You won't forget 
— ^the very next train, Mr. Magee ?" 

"The very next," Magee agreed. 

In through the dining-room door stamped 
Quimby, grave of face, dazed at being roused 
from sleep, and with him an important little man 
whose duty it was to investigate at Upper Asque- 
wan Falls such things as had happened that night 



A RED CARD 347 

at Baldpate. Even from his slumber he rose with 
the air of a judge and the manner of a Sherlock 
Holmes. For an hour he asked questions, and 
in the end he prepared to go in a seemingly satis- 
fied state of mind. 

Quimby's face was very awed when he came 
down-stairs after a visit to the room above. 

*Toor fellow!" he said to Magee. "I'm sorry 
— he was so young." For such as Quimby carry 
no feud beyond the gates. He went over and 
took Kendrick's hand. 

"I never had a chance," he said, "to thank you 
for all you tried to do for me and my invention." 

"And it came to nothing in the end?" Ken- 
drick asked. 

"Nothing," Quimby answered, "I — I had to 
creep back to Baldpate Mountain finally — broke 
and discouraged. I have been here ever since.' 
All my blue prints, all my models — they're locked 
away forever in a chest up in the attic." 

"Not forever, Quimby," Kendrick replied. "I 
always did believe in your invention — I believe in 
it still. When I get back into the harness — Fm 
sure I can do something for you." 



348 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Quimby shook his head. He looked to be half 
asleep. 

'It don't seem possible," he said. "No — it's 
all been buried so long — all the hope — all the 
plans — it don't seem possible it could ever come 
to life again." 

"But it can, and it will," cried Kendrick. "I'm 
going to lay a stretch of track in Reuton with 
your joints. That's all you need — they'll have to 
use 'em then. We'll force the Civic into it. We 
can do it, Quimby — we surely can." 

Quimby rubbed his hand across his eyes. 

"You'll lay a stretch of track — " he repeated. 
"That's great news to me, Mr. Kendrick. I — I 
can't thank you now." His voice was husky. 
"I'll come back and take care of — him," he said, 
jerking his head toward the room up-stairs. "I 
got to go now — this minute — I got to go and tell 
my wife. I got to tell her what you've said.*^ 

! 



CHAPTER XIX 

EXEUNT OMNES, AS SHAKESPEARE HAS IT 

AT FOUR in the morning Baldpate Inn, 
wrapped in the arms p£ winter, had all 
the rare gaiety and charm of a baseball bleechers 
on Christmas Eve. Looking gloomily out the 
window, Mr. Magee heard behind him the steps 
on the stairs and the low cautions of Quimby, 
and two men he had brought from the village, 
who were carrying something down to the dark 
carriage that waited outside. He did not look 
round. It was a picture he wished to avoid. 

So this was the end — ^the end of his two and 
a half days of solitude — the end of his light- 
hearted exile on Baldpate Mountain. He thought 
of Bland, lean and white of face, gay of garb, 
fleeing through the night, his Arabella fiction 
disowned in the real tragedy that had followed. 
He thought of Cargan and Max, also fleeing, 

349 



350 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

wrathful, sneering, by Bland's side. He thought 
of Hayden, jolting down the mountain in that 
black wagon. So it ended. 

' So it ended — most preposterous end — ^witH 
William Hallowell Magee madly, desperately, in 
love. By the gods — in love ! In love with a fair 
gay-hearted girl for whom he had fought, and 
stolen, and snapped his fingers at the law as it 
blinked at him in the person of Professor Bolton. 
Billy Magee, the calm, the unsusceptible, who 
wrote of a popular cupid but had always steered 
clear of his shots. In love with a girl whose name 
he did not know; whose motives were mostly in 
the fog. And he had come up here — to be alone. 
For the first time in many hours he thought of 
New York, of the fellows at the club, of what 
they would say when the jocund news came that 
Billy Magee had gone mad on a mountainside. 
He thought of Helen Faulkner, haughty, unper- 
turbed, bred to hold herself above the swift catas- 
trophies of the world. He could see the arch of 
her patrician eyebrows, the shrug of her exquisite 
shoulders, when young Williams hastened up the 
avenue and poured into her ear the merry story. 



AS SHAKESPEARE HAS IT 351 

Well — so be it. He had never cared for her. In 
her superiority he had found a challenge, in her 
icy indifference a trap, that lured him on to try 
his hand at winning her. But he had never for a 
moment caught a glimmering of what it was 
really to care — ^to care as he cared now for the 
girl who had gone from him — somewhere — down 
the mountain. 

Quimby dragged into the room, the strain of a 
rather wild night in Upper Asquewan Falls in his 
tyts. 

*'j3ke Peters asked me to tell you he ain't com- 
ing back," he said. "Mis' Quimby is getting 
breakfast for you down at our house. You better 
pack up now and start down, I reckon. Your 
train goes at half past six." 

Mrs. Norton jumped up, proclaiming that she 
must be aboard that train at any cost. Miss 
Thornhill, the professor and Kendrick ascended 
the stairs, and in a moment Magee followed. / 

He stepped softly into number seven, for the 
tragedy of the rooms was still in the air. Vague 
shapes seemed to flit about him as he lighted a 
candle. They whispered in his ear that this was 



352 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

to have been the scene of achievement; that here 
he was to have written the book that should make 
his place secure. Ah, w^ell, fate had decreed it 
otherwise. It had set plump in his path the 
melodrama he had come up to Baldpate to avoid. 
Ironic fate, she must be laughing now in the 
sleeve of her kimono. Feeling about in the 
shadows Magee gathered his things together, put 
them in his bags, and with a last look at number 
seven, closed the door forever on its many excite- 
ments. 

A shivering group awaited him at the foot of 
the stair. Mrs. Norton's hat was on at an angle 
even the most imaginative milliner could not have 
approved. The professor looked older than ever; 
even Miss Thornhill seemed a little less statu- 
esque and handsome in the dusk. Quimby led the 
way to the door, they passed through it, and Mr. 
Magee locked it after them with the key Hal 
Bentley had blithely given him on Forty-fourth 
Street, New York. 

So Baldpate Inn dropped back into the silence 
to slumber and to wait. To wait for the magi^ 
of muslin, the lilt of waltzes, the tinkle of laugh- 



AS SHAKESPEARE HAS IT 353 

ter, the rhythm of the rockers of the fleet on its 
verandas, the formal tread of the admiral's boots 
across its polished floors, the clink of dimes in the 
pockets of its bell-boys. For a few brief hours 
strange figures had replaced the unromantic 
Quimby in its rooms, they had come to talk of 
money and of love, to plot and scheme, and as 
they came in the dark and moved most swiftly in 
the dark, so in the dark they went away, and 
Baldpate's startling winter drama took reluctantly 
its final curtain. 

Down the snowy road the five followed Quim- 
by 's lead ; Mr. Magee picturing in fancy one who 
had fled along this path but a short time before ; 
the others busy with many thoughts, not the 
least of which was of Mrs. Quimby's breakfast. 
At the door of the kitchen she met them, ma- 
ternal, concerned, eager to pamper and to serve, 
just as Mr. Magee remembered her on that night 
that now seemed so long ago. He smiled down 
into her eyes, and he had an engaging smile, 
even at four-thirty in the morning. 

"Well, Mrs. Quimby," he cried, "here is the 
prodigal straight from that old husk of an inn. 



354 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

And believe me, he's pretty anxious to sit down 
to some food that woman, starter of all the 
trouble since the world began, had a hand in." 

"Come right in, all of you," chirruped Mrs- 
Quimby, ushering them into a pleasant odor of 
cookery. "Take off your things and sit down. 
Breakfast's most ready. My land, I guess you 
must be pretty nigh starved to death. Quimby 
told me who was cooking for you, and I says to 
Quimby: What,' I says, 'that no account woman- 
hater messing round at a woman's job, like that,' 
I says. 'Heaven pity the people at the inn,' I 
says. 'Mr. Peters may be able to amuse them 
with stories of how Cleopatra whiled away the 
quiet Eg}^ptian evenings,' I says, 'and he may be 
able to throw a little new light on Helen of Troy, 
who would object to having it thrown if she was 
alive and the lady I think her, but,' I says, 'when 
it comes to cooking, I guess he stands about 
where you do, Quimby.' You see, Quimby's rep- 
ertory consists of coffee and soup, and sometimes 
it's hard to tell which he means for which." 

"So Mr. Peters has taken you in on the secret 



AS SHAKESPEARE HAS IT 353 

of the book he is writing against your sex?'* re- 
marked Billy Magee. 

"Not exactly that," Mrs. Quimby answered, 
brushing back a wisp of gray hair, "but he's dis- 
cussed it in my presence, ignoring me at the time. 
You see, he comes down here and reads his latest 
chapters to Quimby o' nights, and I've caught 
quite a lot of it on my way between the cook- 
stove and the sink." 

"I ain't no judge of books," remarked Mrs. 
Norton from a comfortable rocking-chair, "but 
I'll bet that one's the limit." 

"You're right, ma'am," Mrs. Quimby told her. 
"I ain't saying that some of it ain't real pretty 
worded, but that's just to hide the falsehood 
underneath. My land, the lies there is in that 
book! You don't need to know much about 
history to know that Jake Peters has made it 
over to fit his argument, and that he ain't made 
it over so well but what the old seams show here 
and there, and the place where the braid was is 
plain as daylight" 

After ten more minutes of bustle, Mrs. Quim- 



356 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

by announced that they could sit down, and they 
were not slow to accept the invitation. The 
breakfast she served them moved Mr. Magee to 
remark : 

"I want to know where I stand as a judge of 
character. On the first night I saw Mrs. Quimby, 

t 

without tasting a morsel of food cooked by her, 
I said she was the best cook in the county." 

The professor looked up from his griddle cakes. 

"Why lij-nit it to the county?" he asked. "I 
should say you were too parsimonious in your 
judgment." 

Mrs. Quimby, detecting in the old man's words 
a compliment, flushed an even deeper red as she 
bent above the stove. Under the benign influence 
of the food and the woman's cheery personality, 
the spirits of the crowd rose. Baldpate Inn was 
in the past, its doors locked, its seven keys scat- 
tered through the dawn. Mrs. Quimby, as she 
continued to press food upon them, spoke with 
interest of the events that had come to pass at 
the inn. 

"It's so seldom anything really happens around 
here," she said, *T just been hungering for news 



AS SHAKESPEARE HAS IT 357 

of the strange goings-on up there. And I must 
say Quimby ain't been none too newsy on the 
subject. I threatened to come up and join in the 
proceedings myself, especially when I heard about 
the book- writing cook Providence had sent you.** 

*'You would have found us on the porch witH 
outstretched arms," Mr. Magee assured her. 

It was on Kendrick that Mrs. Quimby show- 
ered her attentions, and when the group rose to 
seek the station, amid a consultation of watches 
that recalled the commuter who rises at dawn 
to play tag with a flippant train, Mr. Magee heard 
her say to the railroad man in a heartfelt aside: 

"I don't know as I can ever thank you enough, 
Mr. Kendrick, for putting new hope into Quim- 
by. You'll never understand what it means, 
when you've given up, and your life seems all 
done and wasted, to hear that there's a chance 
left." 

"Won't I ?" replied Kendrick warmly. "Mrs. 
Quimby, it will make me a very happy man to 
give your husband his chance." 

The first streaks of dawn were in the sky when 
the hermits of Baldpate filed through the gate into 



1358 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

the road, waving good-by to Quimby and his 
wife, who stood in their dooryard for the fare- 
well. Down through sleepy little Asquewan 
Falls they paraded, meeting here and there a 
tired man with a lunch basket in his hand, who 
stepped to one side and frankly stared while the 
odd procession passed. 

In the station Mr. Magee encountered an old 
friend — he of the mop of ginger-colored hair. 
The man who had complained of the slowness 
of the village gazed with wide eyes at Magee. 

*T figured," he said, "that you'd come this way 
again. Well, I must say you've put a little life 
into this place. If Td known when I saw you 
here the other night all the exciting things you 
had up your sleeve, I'd a-gone right up to Bald- 
pate with you." 

"But I hadn't anything up my sleeve," pro- 
tested Magee. 

"Maybe," replied the agent, winking. "There's 
some pretty giddy stories going round about the 
carryings-on up at Baldpate. Shots fired, and 
strange lights flashing — dog-gone it, the only 
thing that's happened here in years, and 1 wasn't 



AS SHAKESPEARE HAS IT 359 

in on it. I certainly wish you'd put me wise 
to it." 

''By the way," inquired Magee, "did you notice 
the passengers from here on the ten-thirty train 
last night ?" 

"Ten-thirty," repeated the agent. "Say, what 
sort of hours do you think I keep? A man has 
to get some sleep, even if he does work for a 
railroad. I wasn't here at ten-thirty last night. 
Young Cal Hunt was on duty then. He's home 
and in bed now." 

No help there. Into the night the girl and the 
two hundred thousand had fled together, and 
Mr. Magee could only wait, and wonder, as to 
the meaning of that flight. 

Two drooping figures entered the station — the 
mayof and his faithful lieutenant. Max. The 
dignity of the former had faded like a flower, 
\ nd the same withered simile might have been 
applied with equal force to the accustomed jaunt- 
iness of Lou. 

"Good morning," said Mr. Magee in greeting. 
"Taking an early train, too, eh? Have a pleas- 
ant night ?" 



36o SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Young man," replied Cargan, "if you've evet 
put up at a hotel in a town the size of this, called 
the Commercial House, you know that last ques- 
tion has just one answer — manslaughter. I heard 
a minister say once that all drummers are bound 
for hell. If they are, it'll be a pleasant change 
for 'em." 

Mr. Max delved beneath his overcoat, and 
brought forth the materials for a cigarette, which 
he rolled between yellow fingers. 

"If I was a drummer," he said dolefully, "one 
breakfast — was that what they called it, Jim? — 
one breakfast like we just passed through would 
drive me into the awful habit of reading one of 
these here books of Drummers' Yarns.'' 

"Sorry," smiled Magee. "We had an excellent 
breakfast at Mrs. Quimby's. Really, you should 
have stayed. By the way, where is Bland?" 

"Got shaky in the knees," said Cargan. 
"Afraid of the reformers. Ain't had much ex- 
perience in these things, or he'd know he might 
just as well tremble at the approach of a blue- 
bottle fly. We put him on a train going the other 
direction from Reuton early this morning. He 



AS SHAKESPEARE HAS IT 361 

thinks he'd better seek his fortune elsewhere." 
He leaned in heavy confidence toward Magee. 
"Say, young fellow," he whispered, "put me wise. 
That little sleight of hand game you worked last 
night had me dizzy. Where's the coin ? Where's 
the girl? What's the game? Take the boodle 
and welcome — it ain't mine — but put me next to 
what's doing, so I'll know how my instalment of 
this serial story ought to read." 

*'Mr. Cargan," replied Magee, "you know as 
much about that girl as I do. She asked me to 
get her the money, and I did." 

But what's your place in the game?" 
A looker-on in Athens," returned Magee. 
"Translated, a guy who had bumped into a cy- 
clone and was sitting tight waiting for it to blow 
over. I — I took a fancy to her, as you might put 
it. She wanted the money. I got it for her." 

"A pretty fairy story, my boy," the mayor 
commented. 

Absolutely true," smiled Magee. 
What do you think of that for an explanation, 
Lou," inquired Cargan, "she asked him for the 
money and he gave it to her?" 



<<i 



<( 



{( 



(n 



Z(>2. SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

Mr. Max leered. 

**Say, a Broadway chorus would be pleased to 
meet you, Magee," he commented. 

"Don't tell any of your chorus friends about 
me," replied Magee. *T might not always prove 
so complacent. Every man has his moments of 
falling for romance. Even you probably fell 
once — and what a fall was there." 

"Can the romance stuff," pleaded Max. "This 
chilly railway station wasn't meant for such 
giddy language." 

Wasn't it? Mr. Magee looked around at the 
dingy walls, at the soiled time-cards, at the dis- 
reputable stove. No place for romance? It was 
here he had seen her first, in the dusk, weeping 
bitterly over the seemingly hopeless task in which 
he was destined to serve her. No place for ro- 
mance — and here had begun his life's romance. 
The blue blithe sailor still stood at attention in 
the "See the World" poster. Magee winked at 
him. He knew about it all, he knew, he knew — • 
he knew how alluring she had looked in the blue 
corduroy suit, the bit of cambric pressed ago- 



AS SHAKESPEARE HAS IT 1363 

nizlngly to her face. Verily, even the sailor of 
the posters saw the world and all Its glories. 

The agent leaned his face against the bars. 

"Your train," he called, "is crossing the Main 
Street trestle." 

They filed out upon the platform, Mr. Magee 
carrying Mrs. Norton's luggage amid her effusive 
thanks. On the platform waited a stranger 
equipped for travel. It was Mr. Max who made 
the great discovery. 

"By the Lord Harry," he cried, "it's the Her» 
mit of Baldpate Mountain." 

And so it was, his beard gone, his hair clumsily 
hacked, his body garbed in the height of an old 
and ludicrous fashion, his face set bravely toward 
the cities once more. 

"Yes," he said, "I walked the floor, thinking 
it all over. I knew it would happen, and It has. 
The winters are hard, and the sight of you — it 
was too much. The excitement, the talk — it did 
for me, did for my oath. So I'm going back to 
her — back to Brooklyn for Christmas." 

"A merry one to you," growled Cargan. 



364 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Maybe," replied Mr. Peters. "Very likely, 
if she's feeling that way. I hope so. I ain't 
giving up the hermit job altogether — I'll come 
back in the summers^ to my post-card business. 
There's money in it, if it's handled right. But 
I've spent my last winter on that lonesome hill." 

"As author to author," asked Magee, "how 
about your book?" 

"There won't be any mention of that," the 
hermit predicted, "in Brooklyn. I've packed it 
away. Maybe I can work on it summers, if she 
doesn't come up here with me and insist on run- 
ning my hermit business for me. I hope she 
won't, it would sort of put a crimp in it — but if 
she wants to I won't refuse. And maybe that 
book'll never get done. Sometimes as I've sat in 
my shack at night and read, it's come to me that 
all the greatest works since the world began have 
been those that never got finished." 

The Reuton train roared up to them through 
the gray morning, and paused impatiently at 
Upper Asquewan Falls. Aboard it clambered the 
hermits, amateur and professional. Mr. Magee, 



AS SHAKESPEARE HAS IT 365 

from the platform, waved good-by to the agent 
standing forlorn in the station door. He watched 
the building until it was only a blur in the dawn. 
A kindly feeling for it was in his heart. After 
all, it had been in the waiting-room — - 



CHAPTER XX 



THE admiral's GAME 



THE village of Upper Asquewan Falls gave 
a correct imitation of snow upon the des- 
ert's dusty face, and was no more. Bidding a re- 
luctant good-by to up-state romance, Mr. Magee 
entered the solitary day coach which, with a 
smoker, made up the local to Reuton. He spent 
a few moments adjusting Mrs. Norton to her 
new environment, and listened to her voluble ex- 
pressions of joy in the fact that her boarding- 
house loomed ahead. Then he started for the 
smoker. On his way he paused at the seat occu- 
pied by the ex-hermit of Baldpate, and fixed his 
eyes on the pale blue necktie Mr. Peters had res- 
urrected for his return to the world of men. 

"Pretty, ain't it?" remarked the hermit, see- 
ing whither Mr. Magee's gaze drifted. "She 
picked it. I didn't exactly like it when she first 

366 



THE ADMIRAL'S GAME 367 

gave it to me, but I see my mistake now. I'm 
wearing it home as a sort of a white flag of truce. 
Or almost white. Do you know, Mr. Magee, 
I'm somewhat nervous about what I'll say when I 
come into her presence again — about my inau- 
gural address, you might put it. What would be 
your conversation on such an occasion? If you'd 
been away from a wife for five years, what would 
you say when you drifted back?" 

"That would depend," replied Magee, "on the 
amount of time she allowed me for my speech." 

"You've hit the nail on the head," replied Mr. 
Peters admiringly. "She's quick. She's like 
lightning. She won't give me any time if she 
can help it. That's why I'd like to have a won- 
derful speech all ready — something that would 
hold her spellbound and tongue-tied until I fin- 
ished. It would take a literary classic to do that." 

"What you want," laughed Magee, "is a speech 
with the punch." 

"Exactly," agreed Mr. Peters. "I guess I 
won't go over to Brooklyn the minute I hit New 
York. I guess I'll study the lights along the 
big street, and brush elbows with the world a 



368 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

bit, before I reveal myself to her. Maybe if I 
took in a few shows — but don't think I won't 
go to her. My mind is made up. And I guess 
she'll be glad to see me, too. In her way. I 
got to fix it with her, though, to come back to 
my post-card trade in the summers. I wonder 
what she'll say to that. Maybe she could stay at 
the inn under an assumed name while I was 
hermiting up at the shack." 

He laughed softly. 

''It'd be funny, wouldn't it," he said. "Her sit- 
ting on the veranda watching me sell post-cards to 
the ladies, and listening to the various stories of 
how a lost love has blighted my life, and so forth. 
Yes, it'd be real funny — only Ellen never had 
much sense of humor. That was always her 
great trouble. If you ever marry, Mr. Magee, 
and I suppose you will, take my advice. Marry 
a sense of humor first, and a woman incidental- 
like." 

Mr. Magee promised to bear this counsel in 
mind, and went forward into the smoking-car. 
Long rows of red plush seats, unoccupied save 
for the mayor and Max, greeted his eye. He 



THE ADMIRAL'S GAME 369 

strolled to where they sat, about half-way down 
the car, and lighted an after-breakfast cigar. 

Max slouched in the unresponsive company of 
a cigarette on one side of the car; across the aisle 
the mayor of Reuton leaned heavily above a card- 
table placed between two seats. He was playing 
solitaire. Mr. Magee wondered whether this was 
merely a display of bravado against scheming re- 
formers, or whether Mr. Cargan found in it real 
diversion. Curious, he slid into the place across 
the table from the m^yor. 

"Napoleon," he remarked lightly, "whiled away 
many a dull hour with cards, I believe." 

Clumsily the mayor shuffled the cards. He 
flung them down one by one on the polished sur- 
face of the table rudely, as though they were re- 
form votes he was counting. His thick lips were 
tightly closed, his big hands hovered with unac- 
customed uncertainty over the pasteboards. 

"Quit your kidding," he replied. "I don't be- 
lieve cards was invented in Nap's day. Was they? 
It's a shame a fellow can't have a little admiration 
for a great leader like Nap without all you funny 
boys jollying him about it. That boy sure knew 



370 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

how to handle the voters. IVe read a lot about 
him, and I like his style." 

"You let history alone," snarled Mr. Max, 
across the aisle, "or it'll repeat itself and another 
guy I know'll go to the island." 

"If you mean me," returned Cargan, "forget it. 
There ain't no St. Helena in my future." He 
winked at Magee. "Lou's a little peevish this 
morning," he said. "Had a bad night." 

He busied himself with the cards. Mr. Ma- 
gee looked on, only half interested. Then, sud- 
denly, his interest grew. He watched the mayor 
build, in two piles; he saw that the deck from 
which he built was thick. A weird suspicion shot 
across his mind. 

"Tell me," he asked, "is this the admiral's game 
of solitaire?" 

"Exactly what I was going to ask," said a voice. 
Magee looked up. Kendrick had come in, and 
stood now above the table. His tired eyes were 
upon it, fascinated ; his lips twitched strangely. 

"Yes," answered the mayor, "this is the ad- 
miral's game. You'd hardly expect me to know 
^t, would you ? I don't hang out at the swell clubs 



THE ADMIRAL'S GAME 371 

where the admiral does. They won't have me 
there. But once I took the admiral on a public 
service board with me — one time when I wanted 
a lot of dignity and no brains pretty bad — and he 
sort of come back by teaching me his game in the 
long dull hours when we had nothing to do but 
serve the public. The thing gets a hold on you, 
somehow. Let's see — now the spade — now the 
heart." 

Kendrick leaned closer. His breath came with 
a noisy quickness that brought the fact of his 
breathing insistently to Magee's mind. 

"I never knew — ^how it was played," he said. 

Something told Mr. Magee that he ought to 
rise and drag Kendrick away from that table. 
Why? He did not know. Still, it ought to be 
done. But the look in Kendrick's eyes showed 
clearly that the proverbial wild horses could not 
do it then. 

"Tell me how it's played," went on Kendrick, 
trying to be calm. 

"You must be getting old," replied the mayor. 
"The admiral told me the young men at his club 
never took any interest in his ^ame. 'Solitaire,' 



372 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

he says to me, *is an old man's trade/ It's a great 
game, Mr.. Kendrlck." 

*'A great game," repeated Kendrick, "yes, it's 

a great game." His tone was dull. "I want to 
know how it's played," he said again. 

"The six of clubs," reflected the mayor, throw- 
ing down another card. "Say, she's going fine 
now. There ain't much to it. You use two decks, 
exactly alike — shuffle 'em together — the eight of 
hearts — the jack of — say, that's great — you lay 
the cards down here, just as they come — like 
this—" 

He paused. His huge hand held a giddy paste- 
board. A troubled look was on his face. Then 
he smiled happily, and went on in triumph. 
And then you build, Mr. Kendrick," he said. 
The reds and the blacks. You build the blacks 
on the left, and the reds on the right — do you 
get me ? Then — say, what's the matter ?" 

For Kendrick had swayed and almost fallen on 
the admiral's game — the game that had once sent 
a man to hell. 

"Go on," he said, bracing. "Nothing's the 
matter. Go on. Build, damn it, build !" 






THE ADMIRAL'S GAME 373 

The mayor looked at him a moment in surprise, 
then continued. 

"Now the king," he muttered, "now the ace. 
We're on the home stretch, going strong. There, 
it's finished. It's come out right. A great game, 
I tell you." 

He leaned back. Kendrick's fever-yellowed 
face was like a bronze mask. His eyes were 
fiercely on the table and the two decks of cards 
that lay there. 

"And when you've finished," he pointed. 
'''When you've finished — " 

Mr. Cargan picked up the deck on the left. 

"All black," he said, "when the game comes out 
right." 

"And the other?" Kendrick persisted softly. 
He pointed to the remaining deck. A terrible 
smile of understanding drew his thin lips taut. 
And the other, Mr. Cargan ?" 

Red," replied Cargan. "What else could it 
be? All red." 

He picked it up and shuffled through it to prove 
his point Kendrick turned like a drunken man 
and staggered back down the aisle. Magee rose 






374 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

and hurried after him. At the door he turned, 
and the look on his face caused Magee to shud- 
der. 

"You heard?" he said helplessly. "My God! 
It's funny, isn't it?" He laughed hysterically, 
and drawing out his handkerchief, passed it across 
his forehead. "A pleasant thing to think about 
— a pleasant thing to remember." 

Professor Bolton pushed open the smoker door. 

"I thought I'd join you," he began. "Why, 
David, what is it? What's the matter?" 

"Nothing," replied Kendrick wildly. "There's 
nothing the matter. Let me — by — please." He 
crossed the swaying platform and disappeared 
into the other car. 

For a moment the professor and Magee gazed 
after him, and then without a word moved down 
the car to join Cargan and Max. Magee's mind 
was dazed by the tragedy he had witnessed. "A 
pleasant thing to think about — " He did not 
envy Kendrick his thoughts. 

The mayor of Reuton had pushed aside the 
cards and lighted a huge cigar. 

"Well, Doc," he remarked jocosely, "how's 



THE ADMIRAL'S GAME 375 

trade? Sold any new schemes for renovating the 
world to the up-state rubes? I should think this 
would be sort of an off-season for the reform 
business. Peace on earth, good will toward men 
— that ain't exactly a good advertisement for the 
reformers, is it?" 

"It's an excellent one," replied Professor Bol- 
ton. "The first essential of good will toward men 
is not to rob and debauch them." 

"Oh, well, Doc, don't let's argue the matter,'* 
replied Cargan easily. "I ain't in the humor for 
it, anyhow. You got your beliefs, and I got my 
beliefs. And that ain't no reason why we should 
not smoke a couple of good cigars together. 
Have one ?" 

"Thanks. I — " reluctantly the old man took a 
gay-banded Havana from the mayor's huge fist. 
"You're very kind." 

"I suppose it's sort of a blow to you," the 

^mayor went on, "that your plans up there on the 

mountain went all to smash. It ought to teach 

/ou a lesson. Doc There ain't nothing to the 

reform gag." 

The train slowed down at a small yellow sta- 



2,^^ SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

tion. Mr. Magee peered out the window. "Hoop- 
erstown," he read, "Reuton— lo miles." He saw 
Mr. Max get up and leave the car. 

"Not a thing to it. Doc," Cargan repeated. 
"Your bunch has tried to get me before. YouVe 
shouted from the housetops that you had the 
goods on me. WTiat's always happened?" 

"Your own creatures have acquitted you," re- 
plied the professor, from a cloud pf Cargan 
cigar smoke. 

"Fair-minded men decided that I hadn't done 
wrong. I tell you, Doc, there's dishonest graft, 
and I'm against that always. And there's honest 
graft — the rightful perquisites of a high office. 
That's the trouble with you church politicians. 
You can't see the difference between the two." 

"I'm not a church politician," protested the 
professor, "I'm bitterly opposed to the lily-white 
crowd who continually rant against the thing they 
don't understand. I'm practical, as practical as 
you, and when — " 

Noiselessly Mr. Max slid up to the group, and 
stood silent, his eyes wide, his yellow face piti- 



THE ADMIRAL'S GAME 377 

ful, the fear of a dog about to be whipped in his 
every feature. 

"Jim," he cried, "Jim! You got to get me out 
of this. You got to stand by me." 

"Why, what's the matter, Lou?" asked the 
mayor in surprise. 

"Matter enough," whined Max. '^Do you 
know what's happened ? Well, I'll tell—" 

Mr. Max was thrust aside, and replaced by a 
train newsboy. Mr. Magee felt that he should 
always remember that boy, his straw colored hair,, 
his freckled beaming face, his lips with their 
fresh perpetual smile. 

"All the morning papers, gents," proclaimed 
the boy. "Get the Reuton Star. All about the 
bribery." 

He held up the paper. It*s huge black head- 
lines looked dull and old and soggy. But the 
story they told was new and live and startling. 

"The Mayor Trapped," shrilled the head-lines. 
"Attempt to Pass Big Bribe at Baldpate Inn 
Foiled by Star Reporter. Hayden of the Subur- 
ban Commits Suicide to Avoid Disgrace." 



2,7^ SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Give me a paper, boy," said the mayor. "Yes 
— a Star" His voice was even, his face un- 
moved. He took the sheet and studied it, with 
an easy smile. Clinging in fear to his side. Max 
read, too. At length Mr. Cargan spoke, looking 
up at Magee. 

"So," he remarked. "So— reporters, eh ? You 
and your lady friend? Reporters for this lying 
sheet— the Starr 

Mr. Magee smiled up from his own copy of 
the paper. 

"Not I," he answered. "But my lady friend — 
yes. It seems she was just that. A Star reporter 
you can call her, and tell no lie, Mr. Mayor." 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE MAYOR IS WELCOMED HOME 

IT was a good story — the story which the 
mayor, Max, the professor and Magee read 
with varying emotions there in the smoking-car. 
The girl had served her employers well, and Mr. 
Magee, as he read, felt a thrill of pride in her. 
Evidently the employers had felt that same thrill. 
For in the captions under the pictures, in the 
head-lines, and in a first-page editorial, none of 
which the girl had written, the Star spoke ad- 
miringly of its woman reporter who had done a 
man's work — who had gone to Baldpate Inn and 
had brought back a gigantic bribe fund "alone 
and unaided". 

"Indeed?" smiled Mr. Magee to himself. 

In the editorial on that first page the trium- 
phant cry of the Star arose to shatter its fellows 
in the heavens. At last, said the editor, the long 

379 



1380 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

campaign which his paper alone of all the Reuton 
papers had waged against a corrupt city adminis- 
tration was brought to a successful close. The 
victory was won. How had this been accom- 
plished? Into the Star office had come rumors, 
a few days back, of the proposed payment of a 
big bribe at the inn on Baldpate Mountain. The 
paper had decided that one of its representatives 
must be on the ground. It had debated long 
whom to send. Miss Evelyn Rhodes, its well- 
known special writer, had got the tip in question ; 
she had pleaded to go to the inn. The editor, 
considering her sex, had sternly refused. Then 
gradually he had been brought to see the wisdom 
of sending a girl rather than a man. The sex of 
the former would put the guilty parties under sur- 
veillance off guard. So Miss Rhodes was des- 
patched to the inn. Here was her story. It con- 
victed Cargan beyond a doubt. The very money 
offered as a bribe was now in the hands of the 
Star editor, and would be turned over to Prose- 
cutor Drayton at his request. All this under the 
disquieting title "Prison Stripes for the Mayor"„ 
The girl's story told how, with one companion. 



WELCOMED HOME 381 

she had gone to Upper Asquewan Falls. There 
was no mention of the station waiting-room, nor 
of the tears shed therein on a certain evening, Mr. 
Magee noted. She had reached the inn on the 
morning of the day when the combination was to 
be phoned. Bland was already there, shortly 
after came the mayor and Max. 

"You got to get me out of this,'' Magee heard 
Max pleading over Cargan's shoulder. 

"Keep still!" replied the mayor roughly. He 
was reading his copy of the Star with keen in- 
terest now. 

"IVe done your dirty work for years," whined 
Max. "Who puts on the rubber shoes and sneaks 
up dark alleys hunting votes among the garbage, 
while you do the Old Glory stunt on Main Street? 
I do. You got to get me out of this. It may 
mean jail. I couldn't stand that. I'd die." 

A horrible parody of a man's real fear was in 
his face. The mayor shook himself as though 
he would be rid forever of the coward hanging 
on his arm. 

"Hush up, can't you?" he said. "I'll see you 
through." 



382 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"You got to," Lou Max wailed. 

Miss Rhodes' story went on to tell how Hay- 
den refused to phone the combination; how the 
mayor and Max dynamited the safe and secured 
the precious package, only to lose it in another 
moment to a still different contingent at the inn ; 
how Hayden had come, of his suicide when he 
found that his actions were in danger of ex- 
posure — "a bitter smile for Kendrick in that" re- 
flected Magee — and how finally, through a strange 
series of accidents, the money came into the hands 
of the writer for the Star. These accidents were 
not given in detail. 

"An amusing feature of the whole affair," said 
Miss Evelyn Rhodes, "was the presence at the 
inn of Mr. William Hallowell Magee, the New 
York writer of light fiction, who had come there 
to escape the distractions of a great city, and to 
work in the solitude, and who immediately on his 
arrival became involved in the surprising drama 
of Baldpate." 

I'm an amusing feature," reflected Magee. 

'Mr. Magee," continued Miss Rhodes, "will 
doubtless be one of the state's chief witnesses 



<<T'« 



<C1 



WELCOMED HOME 383 

when the case against Cargan comes to trial, as 
will also Professor Thaddeus Bolton, holder of 
the Crandall Chair of Comparative Literature at 
Reuton University, and Mr. David Kendrick, 
formerly pf the Suburban, but who retired six 
years ago to take up his residence abroad. The 
latter two went to the inn to represent Prosecutor 
Drayton, and made every effort in their power 
to secure the package of money from the reporter 
for the Star, not knowing her connection with 
the affair." 

"Well, Mr. Magee?" asked Professor Bolton, 
laying down the paper which he had been perus- 
ing at a distance of about an inch from his nose. 

"Once again, Professor,'* laughed Magee, "re- 
porters have entered your life." 

The old man sighed. 

"It was very kind of her," he said, "not to 
mention that I was the person who compared 
blondes of the peroxide variety with suffragettes. 
Others will not be so kind. The matter will be 
resurrected and used against me at the trial, Pm 
sure. A plucky girl, Mr. Magee — a very plucky 
girl. How times do change. When I was young, 



384 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

girls of her age would scarcely have thought of 
venturing forth into the highways on such peril- 
ous missions. I congratulate you. You showed 
unusual perception. You deserve a great reward 
— the young lady's favor, let us say." 

*^You got to get me out of this," Max was still 
telling the mayor. 

"For God's sake," cried Cargan, "shut up and 
let me think." He sat for a moment staring at 
one place, his face still lacking all emotion, but 
his eyes a trifle narrower than before. "You 
haven't got me yet," he cried, standing up. "By 
the eternal, I'll fight to the last ditch, and I'll 
win. I'll show Drayton he can't play this game 
on me. I'll show the Star, That dirty sheet 
has hounded me for years. I'll put it out of 
business. And I'll send the reformers howling 
into the alleys, sick of the fuss they started them- 
selves." 

"Perhaps," said Professor Bolton. "But only 
after the fight of your life, Cargan." 

"Fm ready for it," cried Cargan. "I ain't 
down and out yet. But to think — a woman — a 
little bit of a girl I could have put in my pocket 



WELCOMED HOME 385 

— it's all a big joke. I'll beat them — I'll show 
them — the game's far from played out — I'll win 
—and— if— I— don't— " 

He crumbled suddenly into his seat, his eyes 
on that unpleasant line about "Prison Stripes for 
the Mayor". For an instant it seemed as though 
his fight was irrevocably lost, and he knew it. 
Lines of age appeared to creep from out the fat 
folds of his face, and stand mockingly there. He 
looked a beaten man. 

"If I don't," he stammered pitifully, "well, 
they sent him to an island at the end. The re- 
formers got Napoleon at the last. I won't be 
alone in that." 

At this unexpected sight of weakness in his 
hero, Mr. Max set. up a renewed babble of fear 
at his side. The train was in the Reuton sub- 
urbs now. At a neat little station it slowed down 
to a stop, and a florid policeman entered the 
smoking-car. Cargan looked up. 

"Hello, Dan," he said. His voice was lifeless ; 
the old-time ring was gone. 

The policeman removed his helmet and shifted 
it nervously. 



386 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"I thought Fd tell you, Mr. Cargan/* he said. 
"I thought I'd warn you. You'd better get off 
here. There's a big crowd in the station at Reu- 
ton. They're waiting for you, sir; they've heard 
you're on this train. This lying newspaper, Mr. 
Cargan, it's been telling tales — I guess you know 
about that. There's a big mob. You better get 
off here, sir, and go down-town on a car." 

If the mighty Cargan had looked limp and 
beaten for a moment he looked that way no more. 
He stood up, and his head seemed almost to 
touch the roof of the car. Over that big patrol- 
man he towered; his eyes were cold and hard 
again ; his lips curved in the smile of the master. 

"And why," he bellowed, "should I get off 
here? Tell me that, Dan." 

"Well, sir," replied the embarrassed copper, 
"they're ugly. There's no telling what they might 
do. It's a bad mob — this newspaper has stirred 
'em up." 

"Ugly, are they?" sneered Cargan. "Ever 
seen the bunch I would go put of my way for, 
Dan?" 



WELCOMED HOME 387 

"I meant it all right, sir," said Dan. "As a 
friend to a man who's been a friend to me. No, 
I never saw you afraid of any bunch yet, but 
this—" 

"This," replied Cargan, "is the same old bunch. 
The same lily-livered crowd that I've seen in the 
streets since I laid the first paving stone under 
'em myself in '91. Afraid of them? Hell! I'd 
walk through an ant hill as scared as I would 
through that mob. Thanks for telling me, Dan, 
but Jim Cargan won't be in the mollycoddle class 
for a century or two yet." 

"Yes, sir," said the patrolman admiringly. He 
hurried out of the car, and the mayor turned to 
find Lou Max pale and fearful by his side. 

"What ails you now?" he asked. 

"I'm afraid," cried Max. "Did you hear what 
he said? A mob. I saw a mob once. Never 
again for me." He tried to smile, to pass it off 
as a pleasant jest, but he had to wet his lips with 
his tongue before he could go on. "Come on, 
Jim. Get off here. Don't be a fool." 

The train began to move. 



388 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Get off yourself, you coward," sneered Car- 
gan. "Oh, I know you. It doesn't take much 
to make your stomach shrink. Get off." 

Max eagerly seized his hat and bag. 

"I will, if you don't mind," he said. "See ypu 
later at Charlie's." And in a flash of tawdry at- 
tire, he was gone. 

The mayor of Reuton no longer sat limp in 
his seat. That brief moment of seeming sur- 
render was put behind forever. He walked the 
aisle of the car, fire in his eyes, battle in his 
heart. 

"So they're waiting for me, eh?" he said 
aloud. "Waiting for Jim Cargan. Now ain't 
it nice of them to come and meet their mayor?" 

Mr. Magee and the professor went into the 
day coach for their baggage. Mrs. Norton mo- 
tioned to the former. 

"Well," she said, "you know now, I suppose. 
And it didn't do you no harm to wait. I sure 
am glad this to-do is all over, and that child is 
safe. And I hope you'll remember what I said. 
It ain't no work for a woman, no how, what with 
the shooting and the late hours." 



WELCOMED HOME 389 

"Your words," said Mr. Magee, "are engraven 
on my heart." He proceeded to gather her bag- 
gage with his own, and was thus engaged when 
Kendrick came up. The shadow of his discovery 
in the smoking-car an hour before still haunted 
his sunken eyes, but his lips were half smiling 
with the new joy of living that had come to him. 

"Mr. Magee," he began, "I hardly need men- 
tion that the terrible thing which happened — in 
there — is between you and me — and the man 
who's dead. No one must know. Least of all, 
the girl who is to become my wife — it would em- 
bitter her whole life — as it has mine." 

"Don't say that," Magee pleaded. "You will 
forget in time, Fm sure. And you may trust me 
— I had forgotten already." And indeed he had, 
on the instant when his eyes fell upon the Reuton 
'Star. 

Miss Thornhill approached, her dark smiling 
eyes on Magee. Kendrick looked at her proudly, 
and spoke suddenly, determinedly : 

"You're right, I will forget. She shall help 



me." 



"Mr. Magee," said the girl, "I'm so pleased 



390 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

at the splendid end to your impulsive philan- 
thropy. I just knew the adventure couldn't have 
anything but a happy ending — it was so full of 
youth and faith and — and charity or its synonym. 
This mustn't be good-by. You must come and 
see me — come and see us — all." 

'T shall be happy to," answered Magee sin- 
cerely. "It will always be a matter of regret to 
me that I was not able to serve you — also — on 
Baldpate Mountain. But out of it you come with 
something more precious than fine gold, and that 
shall be my consolation." 

"Let it be," smiled Myra Thornhill, "as it is 
surely mine. Good-by." 

"And good luck," whispered Magee, as he took 
Kendrick's hand. 

Over his shoulder, as he passed to the platform, 
he saw them look into each other's eyes, and he 
felt that the memory of the admiral's game would 
in time cease to haunt David Kendrick. 

A shadow had fallen upon the train — the 
shadow of the huge Reuton station. In the half- 
light on the platform Mr. Magee encountered 
the mayor of Reuton. Above the lessening roar 



WELCOMED HOME 391 

of the train there sounded ahead of them the 
voices of men in turmoil and riot. Mr. Cargan 
turned upon Magee a face as placid and dispas- 
sionate as that of one who enters an apple or- 
chard in May. 

*'The boys," he smiled grimly, "welcoming me 
home." 

Then the train came to a stop, and Mr. Magee 
looked down into a great array of faces, and 
heard for the first time the low unceasing rumble 
of an angry mob. Afterward he marveled at that 
constant guttural roar, how it went on and on, 
humming like a tune, never stopping, disconnected 
quite from the occasional shrill or heavy voices 
that rang out in distinguishable words. The 
mayor looked coolly down into those upturned 
faces, he listened a moment to the rumble of a 
thousand throats, then he took off his derby with 
satiric politeness. 

"Glad to see one and all !" he cried. 

And now above the mutterings angry words 
could be heard, "That's him," "That's two- 
hundred-thousand-dollar Cargan," "How's the 
weather on Baldpate ?" and other sarcastic flings. 



392 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE ^ 

Then a fashion of derisive cat-calls came and 
went. After which, here and there, voices spoke 
of ropes, of tar and feathers. And still the 
mayor smiled as one for whom the orchard gate 
swung open in May. 

A squad of policemen, who had entered the car 
from the rear, forced their way out on to the 
platform. 

"Want us to see you through the crowd, Mr. 
Cargan?" the lieutenant asked. 

New hoots and cries ascended to the station 
rafters. "Who pays the police?" "We do." 
"Who owns 'em?" "Cargan." Thus question 
and answer were bandied back and forth. Again 
a voice demanded in strident tones the ignomin- 
ious tar and feathers. 

Jim Cargan had not risen from the slums to 
be master of his town without a keen sense of the 
theatric. He ordered the police back into the 
car. "And stay there," he demanded. The lieu- 
tenant demurred. One look from the mayor sent 
him scurrying. Mr. Cargan took from his pocket 
a big cigar, and calmly lighted it. 

"Some of them guys out there," he remarked 



WELCOMED HOME 393 

to Magee, "belong to the Sunday-school crowd. 
Pretty actions for them — pillars of the church 
howling like beasts." 

And still, like that of beasts, the mutter of the 
mob went on, now in an undertone, now louder, 
and still that voice that first had plead for tar 
and feathers plead still — for feathers and tar. 
And here a group preferred the rope. 

And toward them, with the bland smile of a 
child on his great face, his cigar tilted at one 
angle, his derby at another, the mayor of Reuton 
walked unflinchingly. 

The roar became mad, defiant. But Cargan 
stepped forward boldly. Now he reached the 
leaders of the mob. He pushed his way in among 
them, smiling but determined. They closed in 
on him. A little man got firmly in his path. He 
took the little man by the shoulders and stood 
him aside with some friendly word. And now 
he was past ten rows or more of them on his way 
through, and the crowd began to scurry away. 
They scampered like ants, clawing at one an- 
other's backs to make a path. 

And so finally, between two rows of them, the 



394 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

mayor of Reuton went his way triumphantly. 
Somewhere, on the edge of the crowd, an ad- 
miring voice spoke. "Hello, Jim !" The mayor 
waved his hand. The rumble of their voices 
ceased at last. Jim Cargan was still master of 
the city. 

"Say what you will,*' remarked Mr. Magee 
to the professor as they stood together on the 
platform of the car, "there goes a man." 

He did not wait to hear the professor's answer. 
For he saw the girl of the Upper Asquewan sta- 
tion, standing on a baggage truck far to the left 
of the mob, wave to him over their heads. 
Eagerly he fought his way to her side. It was 
a hard fight, the crowd would not part for him 
as it had parted for the man who owned the city. 



CHAPTER XXII 

THE USUAL THING 

**TTELLO, Mr. Hold-up Man!" The girl 

1 M seized Mr. Magee's proffered hand and 
leaped down from the truck to his side. 

"Bless the gods of the mountain," said Ma- 
gee; "they have given me back my accomplice, 
safe and sound." 

"They were black lonesome gods," she re- 
plied, "and they kept whispering fearful things in 
my ear I couldn't understand. I'm glad they 
didn't keep me." 

"So am I." The crowd surged about them; 
many in it smiled and spoke admiringly to the 
girl. "It's great to be acquainted with the hero- 
ine of the hour," Mr. Magee continued. "I con- 
'gratulate you. You have overthrown an empire 
of graft, it seems." 

"Alone and unaided," she quoted, smiling 
mockingly up into his face. 

395 



396 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"Absolutely alone and entirely unaided," said 
Billy Magee. 'I'll swear to that In court." 

Mrs. Norton panted up to them. 

"Hello, dearie!" she cried. "Thank heaven 
you're safe. Have you been up to the house? 
How's Sadie getting along? I just know every- 
thing is topsyturvy." 

"Not at all," replied Miss Rhodes. "Breakfast 
passed off like clockwork at seven, and even Mr. 
Golden had no complaints to offer. Dear, I 
must thank you for all you've done for me. It 
was splendid — " 

"Not now," objected Mrs. Norton. "I got to 
get up to the house now. What with Christmas 
only two days away, and a lot of shopping to be 
done, I can't linger In this drafty station for 
thanks. I want you to bring Mr. Magee right 
up to the house for lunch. I'll have a meal ready 
that'll show him what suffering must have been 
going on inside me while I sat still watching that 
hermit man burlesquing the cook business." 

"Delighted," said Magee. "I'll find you a cab." 
He led the way to a row of such vehicles, Mrs. 
Norton and the girl following. 



THE USUAL THING 397 

''Seems like you're always putting me in a cab," 
remarked the older woman as she climbed inside. 
"I don't know what Mary and me would have 
done if it hadn't been for you. You're a mighty 
handy person to have around, Mr. Magee. Ain't 
he, dearie?" She winked openly at Magee. 

"And a delightful one," agreed the girl, in a 
matter-of-fact tone. 

Mrs. Norton was driven away up the snowy 
street. As Mr. Magee and the girl turned, they 
beheld the Hermit of Baldpate staring with un- 
disguised exultation at the tall buildings of Reu- 
ton. 

Why, it's Mr. Peters!" the girl cried. 
Yes," replied Magee. "His prediction has 
come true. We and our excitement proved too 
much for him. He's going back to Brooklyn and 
to her." 

"I'm so glad," she cried. She stretched out 
her hand to the hermit. He took it, somewhat 
embarrassed. 

"Glad to see you," he said. "You certainly 
appear to have stirred things up, miss. But 
women are good at that. I've always said — " 



((^ 



(i^ 



398 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

*'Mr. Magee tells me you're going back, after 
all?" she broke in. 

"Yes," returned Peters. "I knew it. I told 
you so. It was all right in the summer, when 
the bands played, and the warm wind was her- 
miting on the mountain, too. But in the fall, it's 
always been hard, and I've heard the white lights 
calling, calling — why, I've even heard her — heard 
Ellen. This fall you came, and there was some- 
thing doing on Baldpate — and I knew that when 
you went, I'd just naturally have to go, too. So 
— I'm going." 

"Splendid," commented the girl. 

"It'll be somewhat delicate," continued the her- 
mit, "bursting in on Ellen after all these years. 
As I told Mr. Magee, I wish I had an inaugural 
address, or something like that." 

"I have it," responded Evelyn Rhodes. "I'll 
write a story about you for to-morrow morning's 
paper. All about how the Christmas spirit has 
overcome the Hermit of Baldpate, and how he's 
going back to his wife, with his heart filled with 
love for her — it is filled, isn't it?" 



iC 



(( 



THE USUAL THING 399 

"Well, yes," agreed Mr. Peters. "I reckon 
you might call it that." 

"And then you can send her a copy of the 
paper, and follow it up in person." , 

^A good idea," commented Billy Magee. 
'At first glance, yes," studied Peters. "But, 
on the other hand, it would be the death knell 
of my post-card business, and I'm calculating to 
go back to Baldpate next summer and take it 
up again. No, I'm afraid I can't let it be gen- 
erally known that I've quit living in a shack on 
the mountain for love of somebody or other." 

"Once more," smiled Magee, "big business 
muzzles the press." 

"Not that I ain't obliged to you for the offer," 
added the hermit. 

"Of course," said the girl, "I understand. And 
I wish you the best of luck — along with a merry 
Christmas." 

"The same to you," replied the hermit heartily. 

"Miss — er — Miss Rhodes and I will see you 
again," predicted Mr. Magee, "next summer at 
Baldpate Inn." 



400 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

The hermit looked at the girl, who turned her 
face away. 

"I hope it'll turn out that way, I'm sure," he 
said. "I'll let you have a reduction on all post- 
cards, just for old times' sake. Now I must find 
out about the New York trains." 

He melted into the crowd, an odd figure still, 
his garb in a fashion long forgotten, his clumsily 
hacked hair brushing the collar of his ancient 
coat. Magee and the girl found the check room, 
and after he had been relieved of the burden of 
his baggage, set out up the main street of Reuton. 
It was a typical up-state town, deep in the throes 
of the holiday season. The windows of the stores 
were green with holly; the faces of the passers-by 
reflected the excitements of Christmas and of the 
upheaval in civic politics which were upon them 
almost together. 

"Tell me," said the girl, "are you glad — at the 
way it has turned out? Are you glad I was no 
lady Captain Kidd ?" 

"It has all turned out — or is about to turn out 
— ^beautifully," Mr. Magee answered. "You may 
remember that on the veranda of Baldpate Inn I 






THE USUAL THING 401 

spoke of one summer hotel flirtation that: was 
going to prove more than that. Let me — " 

Her laugh interrupted. 
You don't even know my name." 
What's the matter with Evelyn Rhodes?" 
suggested Magee. 

"Nothing. It's a perfectly good name. But it 
isn't mine. I just write under it." 

*T prefer Mary, anyhow," smiled Billy Magee. 
"She called you that. It's Mary." 

"Mary what?" 

"You have no idea," said he, "how immaterial 
that is." 

They came upon a throng blocking the sidewalk 
in front of a tall building of stone. The eyes of 
the throng were on bulletins ; it muttered much as 
they had muttered who gathered in the station. 

"The office of the Star/' explained the girl. 
"The crowd is looking for new excitement. Do 
you know, for two whole hours this morning we 
had on exhibition in the window a certain pack- 
age — a package of money!" 

*T think," smiled Magee, "I've seen it some- 
where." 



402 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

"I thinlc you have. Drayton came and toolc it 
from us as soon as he heard. But it was the very 
best proof we could have offered the people. They 
like to see for themselves. It's a passion with 
Uhem. We've done for Cargan forever." 
"Cargan says he will fight." 
"Of course he will," she replied. "But this will 
prove Napoleon's Waterloo. Whether or not he 
is sent to prison — and perhaps he can escape that, 
he's very clever — his power in Reuton is broken. 
He can't possibly win at the next election — it 
comes very soon. I'm so glad. For years pur 
editor has been fighting corruption, in the face of 
..terrible odds and temptations. I'm so glad it's 
over now — and the Star has won." 
;' "Through you," said Magee softly. 

"With — some one — to help," she smiled. "I 
(must go up-stairs now and find out what new task 
is set for me." 

Mr. Magee postponed the protest on the tip of 

" his tongue, and, climbing the gloomy stairs that 

newspapers always affect, they came into the city 

room of the Star. Though the paper had been 

long on the street, the excitement of the greatest 



THE USUAL THING 403 

coup of years still lingered in the place. Magee 
saw the deferential smiles that greeted the girl, 
and watched her as she made her way to the city 
editor's desk. In a moment she was back at his 
side. 

"I've got my assignment," she smiled ruefully. 
They descended to the street. "It's wonderful,'* 
she went on, "how curt a city editor can be with 
any one who pulls off a good story. The job I've 
got now reminds me of the experience of an old 
New York reporter who used to work on the 
Starr 

With difficulty they threaded their way through 
the crowd, and moved along beside the green- 
decked windows. 

"He was the first man sent out by his paper on 
Park Row on the Spanish War assignment," she 
went on, "and he behaved rather brilliantly, I be- 
lieve. Well, he came back after the fight was 
over, all puffed up and important, and they told 
him the city editor wanted him. 'They're going 
to send me to the Philippines,' he told me he 
thought as he went into the presence. When the 
city editor ordered him to rush down to a two- 



404 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

alarm fire in Houston Street he nearly collapsed. 
I know how he felt. I feel that way now." 

"What was it — a one-alarm fire?" asked Ma- 
gee. 

"No," she replied, "a sweet little story about 
the Christmas toys. I've done it to death every 
Christmas for — three years. Oh, well, I can do 
it again. But it'll have to wait until after Airs. 
Norton's lunch." 

She led him into a street where every house 
was like its neighbor, even to the "Rooms" sign 
in the windows, and up the steps of one she could 
have recognized only by counting from the cor- 
ner. They entered the murky and stereotyped 
atmosphere of a boarding-house hallway, with 
its inevitable hat-rack and the uncollected letters 
of the homeless on a table. Mrs. Norton came 
breezily forth to meet them. 

"Well, Mr. Magee," she said, "I certainly am 
glad you've came. I'm busy on that lunch now. 
Dearie, show him into the parlor to wait." 

Mr. Magee was shown in. That rooming- 
house parlor seemed to moan dismally as it re- 
ceived him. He strolled about and gazed at the 



THE USUAL THING 405 

objects of art which had at various times accrued 
to Mrs. Norton's personaHty: a steel engraving 
called Too Late, which depicted an angry father 
arriving at a church door to find his eloping 
daughter in the arms of stalwart youth, with 
the clergy looking on approvingly; another of 
Mr. John Drew assuming a commanding posture 
as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew; some 
ennuied flabby angels riding on the clouds; a 
child of unhealthy pink clasping lovingly an in- 
flammable dog; on the mantel a miniature ship, 
under glass, and some lady statuettes whose toil- 
ettes slipped down — down. 

And, on an easel, the sad portrait of a gentle- 
man, undoubtedly the late lamented Norton. His 
uninteresting nose appeared to turn up at the con- 
stant odor of cookery in which it dwelt ; his hair 
was plastered down over his forehead in a 
gorgeous abandoned curve such as some of the 
least sophisticated pf Mr. John T. McCutcheon's 
gentlemen affect. 

Mr. Magee stared round the room and smiled. 
Was the romance of reality never to resemble the 
romance of his dreams? Where were the dim 



4o6 SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE 

lights, where the distant waltz, where the magic 
of moonlight amid which he was some day to 
have told a beautiful girl of his love? Hardly in 
Mrs. Norton's parlor. 

She came and stood in the doorway. Hatless, 
coatless, smiling, she flooded the place with her 
beauty. Mr. Magee looked at the flabby angels 
on the wall, expecting them to hide their faces in 
shame. But no, they still rode brazenly their un- 
stable clouds. 

*'Come in," he cried. "Don't leave me alone 
here again, please. And tell me — is this the gen- 
tleman who took the contract for making Mrs. 
Norton happy?" 

"I — I can't come in," she said, blushing. She 
seemed to wish to avoid him. *'Yes, that is Mr. 
Norton." She came nearer the easel, and smiled 
at the late lamented's tonsorial crown. "I must 
leave you — just a moment — " 

Billy Magee's heart beat wildly. His breath 
came fast. He seized her by the hand. 

"You're never going to leave me again," he 
cried. "Don't you know that? I thought you 
knew. You're mine. I love you. I love you. 



THE USUAL THING 407 

It's all I can say, my dearest. Loot at me — look 
at me, please." 

"It has happened so quickly," she murmured. 
"Things can't be true when they — ^happen so 
quickly." 

"A woman's logic," said Mr. Magee. "It has 
happened. My beautiful girl. Look at me." 

And then — she looked. Trembling, flushed, 
half frightened, half exultant, she lifted her eyes 
to his. 

"My little girl !" he cried down at her. 

A moment longer she held off, and then limply 
she surrendered. And Billy Magee held her close 
in his arms. 

"Take care of me," she whispered. "I — I love 
ypu so." Her arm went timidly about his shoul- 
ders. "Do you want to know my name? It's 
Mary—" 

Mary what? The answer was seemingly of no 
importance, for Mr. Magee's lips were on hers, 
crushing the word at its birth. 

So they stood, amid Mrs. Norton's gloomy ob- 
jects of art. And presently she asked : 

"How about the book, dear ?" 



{(■ 



({' 



4o8 SEVEN KEYS TO, BALDPATE 

But Mr. Magee had forgot. 

What book ?" he asked. 

The novel you went to Baldpate to write. 
Don't you remember, dearest — no melodrama, no 
wild chase, no — ^love?" 

"Why — " Mr. Magee paused for a moment In 
the joy of his discovery. Then he came back to 
the greater joy in his arms. 

"Why, darling," he explained gently, "this 
IS it 



THE END 



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